Sustainability: a reality with no return to the footwear production chain


Sustainable Origin is the only certification of ESG for the segment in the world



Sustainable Origin is the only certification of ESG for the segment in the world


Carried out by the Brazilian Footwear Industries Association (Abicalçados) in partnership with the Brazilian Association of Companies of Components for Leather, Footwear and Artifacts (Assintecal) to certify practices aligned with the concepts of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) in the footwear production chain, the Sustainable Origin is expanding. The only certification for the segment at an international level, the program has grown by 75% in the last year, reaching about 100 footwear producing companies and their suppliers certified or in the process of certification. These companies, according to a survey by Abicalçados, account for 45% of national footwear production - of 848 million pairs last year.

The CEO of Abicalçados, Haroldo Ferreira, highlights that the search for certification is growing in Brazil, as companies have understood the importance of not only assuming ESG practices, but certifying and communicating them to the national and international market. According to the executive, the Brazilian footwear sector is one of the most sustainable in the world. A recent survey carried out by Abicalçados with companies in the sector points out that 95% of respondents already work with the environmentally correct destination of their productive waste, replacing them in production, recycling or even transforming them into fertilizers or construction material. Companies that use 100% of electricity from renewable sources are at 62%, while 74% of industries already produce greenhouse gas emission inventories with the aim of reducing emissions. 

Consumers pull the move
Like with any cultural phenomenon, sustainability must be jumpstarted by society. In this context, consumers around the world are increasingly concerned about environmental preservation, respect for human rights and a fair economy. McKinsey data shows that ESG strategies can affect operating profits by up to 60%, while more than 80% of global consumers say they are more loyal to companies that support social or environmental issues. “The ESG movement is an international reality and is increasingly present in the footwear production chain. Companies that do not adapt to these new times will certainly find it difficult to survive. Sustainability is not a differential, it is an essential condition for competitiveness”, highlights the superintendent of Assintecal, Silvana Dilly. 

Calçados Beira Rio: a sustainable giant
One of the largest footwear producers in the world, Calçados Beira Rio, from Novo Hamburgo/RS, is one of the giants certified at the maximum level of Sustainable Origin, Diamond.  Since sustainability encompasses different pillars, the company's Commercial and Marketing director, Maribel Silva, lists a series of initiatives carried out by the footwear company. In the environmental area, for example, the project of reusing waste from the production process in the manufacture of new production items, such as insoles, and point-of-sale materials stands out. The company also uses raw materials of renewable origin, such as PVC present in the soles, which are produced with up to 70% raw material from renewable sources. “In the product mix, it is still possible to identify fabrics with recycled polyester yarns and post-consumer pet bottles,” adds the director, noting that the company also uses 100% clean energy and performs reverse logistics of its packaging sent to the market. 

In the social area, the highlight is the Accessible Company program, which since 2011 has the goal of ensuring an organizational culture that confirms the right of access to work and that allows welcoming and including people with disabilities within their manufacturing processes, stimulating them to provide their livelihoods, in order to feel inserted in the social and family environment. The company also supports projects through incentive laws, which involve culture and education. 

As well as image gains in the market, ESG initiatives end up generating savings for Calçados Beira Rio. Maribel says that the practices bring benefits in all areas of the company, reaching all stakeholders and improving processes, generating productivity and cost reduction, focusing on a better use of natural resources, with the least possible impact on the environment.

According to her, from 2012 to 2021, the company transformed more than 24 thousand tons of waste, which resulted in a reduction of 37 thousand tons of greenhouse gas, in addition to saving 181 million liters of water. 

Since sustainability is an endless journey, Calçados Beira Rio will not stop there. Maribel announces that a pyrolysis plant developed in conjunction with the  Universidade de Caxias do Sul is in the final phase of testing. "When it is operating at full capacity, the plant will generate 1.45 megawatt-hours (MWH), that is, the bioenergy produced will be 281% higher than the company consumes, and can power other facilities,” says the director, stressing that the project required an initial investment of R$ 15 million. 

Directly employing 10 thousand people, Calçados Beira Rio produces, on average, 500 thousand pairs of shoes every day, of which it exports 15% to 97 countries, mainly in Latin America.  

Pampili: sustaining a better future
Creating a culture of sustainability is a social commitment. Faced with the challenge of creating more conscious bases, Pampili, a manufacturer of children's shoes from Birigui/SP, seeks to raise awareness of its little consumers from a very early age. Working, since its foundation, with the commitment to care, develop and raise awareness in the evolution of its stakeholders in the construction of a better and more sustainable future, Pampili, among its highlights, has the Eco Friendly Project. This is a line of products made with a percentage of recycled material-buttress shavings, sole flaps, etc. The micro expanded PVC used in the manufacture of footwear is free of heavy metals and phthalates - chemical substance harmful to human and animal health. 

With regard to production processes, Pampili acquires energy from natural sources - solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectric, among others - and works the Terra do Rosa Institute, which includes projects that were built to serve the children of employees, representing the materialization of the institutional purpose of transforming the world into a better place.  

The company'S CEO, Maria Mestriner Colli, highlights the importance of recognizing Pampili's sustainability actions. "All actions within Pampili are designed to promote sustainability, both environmental and social, and having these certified practices brings us even competitive advantages”, he evaluates. According to Maria, now the company's challenge is to achieve the maximum level of Sustainable Origin, Diamond - today the company Is Gold. “We are working with a focus on consolidating our Sustainability Policy for the entire Pampili Nation - the company and its stakeholders. We will also hold monthly meetings with our Sustainability Committee to present and manage the results regarding the commitments made and the training of employees for sustainability".

The company employs more than 1.8 thousand employees, who produce, daily, 13.5 thousand pairs of shoes and one thousand bags, of which they export about 10% to more than 40 countries, with emphasis on Asia, Europe and Latin America. 

Grupo Ramarim: cost reduction
The Grupo Ramarim, a manufacturer of women's shoes from Nova Hartz/RS certified at the Diamond level of Sustainable Origin, sees sustainability as a way to take care of the planet and also the company's coffers. Reporting savings of more than R$ 20 million since it began to adopt initiatives such as recycling or reuse of 100% of the waste from the production process, returning them to production as new components for footwear (insoles, buttresses, cuirasses, heels and soles), the company uses 100% renewable energy sources and still manages the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and volatile organic compounds. 

Still in the Environmental Pillar, the Grupo Ramarim developed the Environmental Education Program (PEA), in order to raise awareness and sensitize its employees regarding aspects related to the environment. The development of the PEA aims to sensitize employees on issues of preservation and conservation of nature, contributing to an improvement in the level of awareness and performance of these individuals in relation to their work environment and their production process. 

The director of Innovation and Technology of the company, Rodrigo de Oliveira, says that Ramarim develops environmental projects with its suppliers and partners, aiming at the sustainability of the business, promoting the reuse of waste in the production process.” Among the group's commitments to the environment is to offset 100% of its CO2 emissions by 2024 and use 100% of rainwater capture in the internal environment", projects Oliveira. 

In the social pillar, the company provided training for the development of managers and leaders of its various organizational sectors. The group also provides cost assistance for training at the technical and higher levels in the footwear area through a partnership with SENAI. 

One of the main Brazilian manufacturers of women's shoes, the company has a production of more than 50 thousand pairs of daily shoes and directly employs more than 7 thousand employees. 

Calçados Pegada: cultural change
The manufacturer of men's and women's shoes Calçados Pegada, from Dois Irmãos / RS, is another company engaged in the Sustainable Origin. Certified at Diamond level, the manufacturer has been transforming not only the corporate culture, but also its stakeholders. The company's Administrative Manager, Gabriel Ranft, tells that Sustainable Origin has given life and a new identity to the way Pegada and its employees understand the sustainability theme, broadening cultural horizons. “The main actions and benefits were the creation of the multidisciplinary work center, the main benefit for the organization being the use of the Sustainable Origin Framework for the organization and formalization of the issues that were loose around the company”, says the manager.

Among the highlights that led Pegada to achieve certification are the creation of a Sustainability Center, the preparation of the first Greenhouse Effect inventory, which monitors gas emissions from productive activity, donations to those affected by floods in Bahia, to hospitals, schools and charities, such as Apae, Lar da Criança com Câncer, among others. In the social area, more specifically within the units, the company maintains 82% of its management staff filled by women and promotes the local economy by buying from suppliers in the regions where it operates, among other topics.

According to the company's Sustainability Report, today 22% of packaging that leaves Pegada is compensated in a reverse logistics process. “But we want to expand this number in the coming years,” projects Ranft. The company has also reduced, and has been reducing, the use of electricity through greater awareness of employees and has given preference to the use of renewable sources (wind, solar, biomass, etc.), acquired in the so called Free Market. The reduction in the use of fossil fuels is also a reality in the company, which reduced its use by almost 35%. With regard to the product, the shoemaker reports the recycling and reuse of thermoplastic waste by grinding soles, EVA and PU leftovers from the production process, replacing the material back in production and reducing the waste generated.

Calçados Pegada directly employs more than 4.2 thousand employees and produces about 6 million pairs per year. Exports are around 12% to 14% per year, with the main markets being Latin America and Europe, with considerable representation also in the Middle East and constant growth in North America.

Calçados Ala: journey towards sustainability
Quite democratic, the Sustainable Origin Program welcomes companies that are in different phases with respect to sustainability in the production process. After all, sustainability has a beginning, but it does not have an end. It is a continuous journey, in which the main step is the first. One of the companies that has been increasing its sustainable initiatives is Calçados Ala, from São João Batista/SC. Certified at the Silver level, the Santa Catarina company recycles all cardboard used in production and has abolished the use of plastic cups in the factory environment. 

In five years, according to the company's director, Jonatha dos Santos, more than 6 million plastic cups were saved. On the other hand, cardboard recycling reaches more than 25 tons per year.  In terms of products, the footwear brand launched, in July 2020, the Zatz Eco collection, produced with 100% knit leather developed with pet bottles. That's eight pet bottles per pair, bottles that would be discarded. The footwear also has expanded PVC soles produced with rice straw, which adds even more sustainability appeal to the product. “For the next collections, the goal is to produce even more lines with sustainable appeal. I see, mainly, the international market, which absorbs 30% of our production, more concerned with sustainability. The adoption of more sustainable products and production is a constant focus of Ala,” concludes Santos. 

About Sustainable Origin
Sustainable Origin is the only ESG and sustainability certification in the world aimed at footwear chain companies. Based on the best international sustainability practices, it follows the guideline of 104 indicators distributed in five dimensions: economic, environmental, social, cultural and sustainability management. The categories are Diamond (+80% of the indicators reached), Gold (+60%), Silver (+40%) and Bronze (+20%). Audits are carried out by independent bodies such as SENAI, SGS, ABNT, Intertek, Bureau Veritas and DNV.