Sustainability on the feet

It is not new that sustainability has been attracting the attention of the market. Research indicates that the "green argument" has been gaining traction in the consumer's imagination, in a movement influenced by global trends. According to research by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), commissioned by WWF and conducted in 54 countries, where 80% of the world's population lives, the online search for sustainable products grew by 71%. As it couldn't be different, the greater awareness of the consumer has been pulling the market from several sectors, among them the shoemaker. "The sustainability trend is global. Despite being driven by the most developed countries, especially in Europe, it is a phenomenon that has been occurring in emerging economies, such is the case of Brazil. Weekly we receive surveys, especially from importers, in search of sustainable suppliers here in the country”, says the trade promotion coordinator of the Brazilian Association of Footwear Industries (Abicalçados), Letícia Sperb Masselli, pointing out that the offer of sustainable Brazilian footwear can be found on the platform<> . In total, 34 brands of the platform, which brings together more than 200, offer environmentally friendly products. 

The women's shoe manufacturer Piccadilly Company is one of the positive examples of the footwear sector in the sustainability area. The company's vice president and product director, Ana Carolina Grings, points out that, aware that society and markets are rapidly transforming, completing the transition to a more sustainable, circular and low-carbon society, the company has inserted in its day to day an ESG (Environmental, social and corporate governance) and corporate sustainability strategy. "A sustainability strategy presupposes a commitment to continuous improvement, with the planning and execution of environmental, social, economic and cultural projects and actions, aligned with the company's policy and objectives. In addition, there is no way to talk about sustainability without inspiring and involving the entire value chain,” says the executive, pointing out that the consumer “does not want to know what you talk about, but what you do with what you talk about”. According to her, the sustainability theme is something that has been increasingly valued, especially by new generations. “This puts the brand ahead in the market, valuing the company's image, adding perceived value to the product, as well as allowing a more interesting margin, for having greater added value", she adds 

Among Piccadilly's sustainable highlights are precisely its footwear, all made with raw material free of animal origin and that do not leave waste in the environment. "Our products are made with PrimeTech, a unique high quality material, super soft, practical to clean, with anti-mold and antibacterial treatment, and water repellent. We also count on the So.Si ECOAR sneaker, which has each pair manufactured with 3.5 PET bottles taken from the environment and waste recovered from the textile industry, in addition to the Marshmallow Line, 100% developed with recyclable EVA", says Ana Carolina. 

With 66 years in the market, Piccadilly employs 1.5 thousand employees in two units in Rio Grande do Sul and annually sells more than 5 million pairs every year, 35% of them to more than 100 countries. 

Another giant of the Brazilian footwear sector that has been standing out in the area is Grendene. The Sustainable Development Manager of the company, Carlos André Carvalho, highlights that, for years, Grendene has made a commitment to reduce waste, ensure more efficiency in processes, research and develop materials with less impact, recycle products encouraging circular practices through its own reverse logistics programs and contribute to the well-being of employees and the communities where it has factories inserted. "Today, observing aspects of sustainability is also looking at consumer trends. In addition, sustainability is increasingly manifested in the financial assessment of organizations and observing social, environmental and governance aspects allow lower costs, risk diagnosis, zeal for image and reputation and greater preparation for crisis management,” he says. 

In terms of product, Grendene offers the national and international market with products with nothing of animal origin and made with 100% recyclable PVC, non-toxic and free of dangerous substances. Currently, the company celebrates having a portfolio of 100% vegan products registered by the Vegan Society. Carvalho quotes a few lines of shoes that are going to further reduce the environmental impacts, including Melissa Free, the first of the brand's monoblock made in EVA derived from sugar cane, which is made from a material with 20% renewable carbon and emits 65% less greenhouse gas emissions in its production, Melissa Flox M, - made with 100% recycled material, the Rider R4, flip-flops manufactured with the principles of the recreate, reduce, reuse, and recycle, and the Ipanema Recria, made from recycled materials and with rice husks, which is 100% recyclable and has reverse logistics colectors in over 400 partner stores to encourage the proper disposal of shoes with no conditions of use. 

Founded in 1971, Grendene has production capacity for more than 250 million pairs of shoes every year and employs almost 20 thousand people in its units of Farroupilha / RS, Fortaleza / CE, Sobral / CE and Crato / CE

Also with strong performance in the sustainability area, Bibi is one of the most traditional children's footwear industries in Brazil.  The president of the company, Andrea Kohlrausch, says that sustainability is part of the Bibi DNA, which for many years has produced children's shoes with non-toxic materials and following the strictest international standards and with industrial waste recycled or co-processed, not being sent to landfills. "Bibi aims to promote sustainable growth on all fronts of the business. In this way, it announced a series of commitments based on ESG until 2030. Regarding the environmental field, the brand hopes to achieve annually 100% compliance of products manufactured in the Reach Standard (Regulation No. 1907/2006 European Parliament) regarding toxicity”, projects the entrepreneur. 

With regard to products, all shoes produced by Bibi have sustainable characteristics, since all manufacturing processes take into account the entire supply chain. One of the great highlights is Bibi Eco. The footwear consists of sawdust, PET bottles, rice husks, bamboo fibers and materials reused from the production of the brand's factories.

Andrea evaluates that the company is always attentive to the possibilities of inserting sustainable actions and products into its mix. "Today, consumers are more attentive to these issues and we have to keep up with the changes and the interests of our customers, as well as provide a better future for our little ones. Bibi believes it is the role of brands to arouse curiosity for sustainability and encourage the care that the environment needs," she says” 

Founded in 1949, Bibi employs 1.3 thousand people in its two units, in Parobé / RS and Cruz das Almas / BA. The production is of more than 2 million pairs per year, and 20% will be destined for export to Latin America and Europe.

Founded in 2008, Boaonda was born with sustainability as part of its business model. In Sapiranga / RS, where it employs 300 employees who produce more than 1 million pairs every year, the company invests in innovative materials and production with high added value in technology and innovation, implementing and following the principles of sustainability and international quality standards. "Sustainability is, for Boaonda, more than a market trend, it is a new perspective of life. Therefore, we implemented the Walking to the Future project, which instigates a walk to the future through immediate actions with medium and long-term results, through three performance biases: social, cultural and economic”, comments Letícia Vaccari Tatim, Marketing Coordinator of the company. 

In the Walking to the Future project, the company promotes a series of actions in the area of sustainability. In the social field, it counts on building partnerships with institutions, people and brands with similar purposes, such as the collabs with the cycling athlete Beto Bike, the plastic artist Jackson Brum, the Discovery Channel and the support of the Arborizar project, which aims to increase tree species in cities and bring environmental education to schools. In the cultural area, the project has a consultancy specialized in sustainability to guide actions and bring information on the subject to employees, so that they can apply it in their daily lives. In the economy area, the highlight is the creation of the Hope Line, which has 60% of the materials used from recycling-reuse of TR and EVA residue.  "In addition, Hope is produced with super reduced CO2 emissions, renewable energy, does not use materials of animal origin and has 95% of its waste reused,” explains Letícia. 

Still in the Hope Line, Boaonda is launching an unprecedented partnership with the Discovery Channel in order to encourage outdoor activities. There are three models, the Evo sneakers, the Flow babuche and the Soft cloud slide, which can return to production after being used, in the context of reverse logistics. “We are happy to be, for some time now, together in this provocation by the movement of the sector towards a more sustainable, conscious scenario. Being able to see more and more companies starting this movement is satisfactory, after all it is about our planet and consumption, but it must be true”, emphasizes Israel Reis, Boaonda's Foreign market Supervisor. 

Piccadilly, Grendene, Bibi and Boaonda are some of the more than 200 brands that are part of the platform, which aims to connect Brazilian shoemakers with buyers from all over the world. 

Piccadilly's vice president and Product Director Ana Carolina Grings points out that digitalization is key for the company. “As a major advantage, we see great gains in agility, in addition to cost reduction, giving the possibility of growth at scale with a more direct and assertive distribution” she assesses, adding that the site has assisted the brand in connecting with international buyers in an efficient and agile way. 

Grendene sees participation in the platform as a way to overcome geographical barriers. "The digitalization of the market has significantly expanded the possibilities of business. Without the constraint of geographical barriers, digital channels enable a more agile connection between organizations and buyers. That's why we believe in the potential of the platform and we hope that in the near future businesses are closed through the channel", projects the company's Sustainable Development manager, Carlos André Carvalho.

For Bibi's president Andrea Kohlrausch, the importance of digitalization became even more evident during the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent restrictions on physical encounters. "Due to the social distancing resulting from the pandemic, Bibi had to reinvent itself to keep in touch with international buyers. The digital platforms came to aggregate in the prospecting and approximation of customers, mainly, with the cancellation of fairs and visits to partner countries”, comments the executive. 

In the assessment of Israel Reis, Boaonda's external market supervisor, digitalization optimizes the approach time in the B2B (business to business) market, especially abroad. " has recognition among international buyers and, therefore, we understand that it can be a good approach center", he evaluates. 

The project is part of the Brazilian Footwear program, promoted by Abicalçados in partnership with the Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Exports and Investments (Apex-Brazil) since 2000. The objective of the action is to promote and qualify Brazilian shipments in the sector through commercial and image promotion actions with international buyers.