“Being a small piece of a big thing that was heading nowhere”.
This was the exact moment Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion realized their strong conviction to leave their jobs in banking and pursue their most fulfilling project yet.
In 2004, they founded VEJA: sneakers designed in Paris, responsibly sourced, and produced working directly with small producer co-operatives in Brazil, using materials such as organic cotton, wild Amazonian rubber, and acacia-tanned leather. Since then the company pursues high social and environmental standards, promoting eco-farming, campaigning against deforestation, supporting workers’ rights, and creating employment for poor families, precisely in the Acre region.
Acre is the frontier to the Amazon rainforest, where disputes between forest protectors and cattle farmers have been going on for more than 4 decades. The region is at the center of a worldwide issue, deforestation. One of the main raw materials for VEJA is Amazonian rubber and pursuing the legacy of Chino Mendes, the Brazilian environmentalist and trade union leader who was killed in 1988, the two founders started working with Bia Saldanha, an amazonian activist.
At the heart of the forest, the carioca woman is known for devoting her entire life to the fight against deforestation, not only protecting it but also supporting its inhabitants. She is therefore responsible to coordinate the various parties involved in rubber production for VEJA. The sustainable brand engages in purchasing wild rubber from communities of rubber tappers in the Amazon, where the rubber is tapped directly from local Hevea trees.
A seringueiro collects up to 10 liters of rubber milk per day, which is then used for the soles of VEJA sneakers. Veja then buys it at twice the market price directly from Cooperacre, the cooperative in charge of processing the Amazonian latex coming from family producers as CVP (raw material) into transformed rubber. Paying an additional premium for the good quality of the rubber and forest conservation, the tappers are not tempted to supplement their incomes through land clearing, cattle breeding, or wood extraction.
Throughout this process, the young company is able to support the working communities and protect the rainforest from being cut down, while indirectly fighting climate change.
Dried up rivers and devastating fires are just some consequences that climate change has on the Amazon rainforest. Its inhabitants hope for a sustainable future and ask for more companies like Veja to work with. This is the reason why by choosing ethical brands, you are undoubtedly part of a special and rewarding mission.