After just two years in business, eco-friendly Brazilian footwear label Cariuma is taking on a sizable sustainable mission.
As of this month, founders David Python and Fernando Porto said, the brand has committed to planting two trees in the Brazilian rainforest for every pair of shoes sold.
The Pair for Pair initiative was born of the founders’ love for their native homeland—and their dismay at seeing its beautiful and Earth-sustaining landscape dismantled by deforestation and industrialization.
“The Pair for Pair was a natural step up towards our mission of building things that are good for the people and for the planet,” Python told Sourcing Journal.
Over the past two years, he said, Cariuma has worked to make its packaging more sustainable and offset delivery emissions. The company also created a vegan line, and launched a revolutionary bamboo-based upper.
“After so many exciting initiatives it was time for us to strengthen our give-back arm,” he said. Python and Porto began looking into reforestation efforts for the Amazon rainforest in their own backyard—a place, he said, “that carries the largest biodiversity in the world, and needs urgent action.”
“This has a profound meaning to us, as one of our co-founders is a direct descendant of indigenous people in Brazil—the guardians of the forest—that are being severely affected by deforestation as well,” Python said.
Cariuma developed direct partnerships with local organizations in Brazil working toward saving the forests, and crafted its own program to run alongside those efforts.
Pair for Pair will focus on regenerating native species of trees such as the Jacaranda, Pau-brasil-branco, Peroba, Caroba and the Murici-da-mata.
“Great things take time, and for us [we] needed two years of operations until we could improve important things in our brand to reduce our overall carbon emissions before developing our reforestation project,” Python said. Consumers, he added, are already responding favorably to the program.
When asked whether the coronavirus crisis has impacted Cariuma’s business or the launch of its new sustainable initiative, Python said the pandemic has actually helped push timelines forward.
“COVID has actually accelerated our launches, both of the Pair for Pair initiative but also the launch of innovative sustainable styles,” he said. In the relative pause that the spring’s events have afforded, the world has seen an economic slowdown as well as an improvement in air quality and decrease in human environmental impact.
That confluence of circumstances only served to further illuminate Cariuma’s mission, Python said. “It’s just proof of how bad many business and giant corporations we compete against are for the environment,” he added. “We had decided to take stronger action and push ourselves to take risks as a small and nascent company and be bolder in our goals.”
Porto, the brand’s chief creative officer, echoed the sentiment that the slowdown has brought the brand’s important objectives into focus. In addition to pushing sustainable initiatives, Cariuma is also working to strengthen its humanitarian bond with partner factories.
“We have a very close relationship with our suppliers,” he said, adding that he and Python visited dozens of factories and assessed not only their product capabilities, but their social compliance, before committing to partnerships.
“Our factories have the commitment to follow a code of conduct that reflects our values,” he said, which means creating a work environment with concrete and fair working hours and wage standards, along with good working and living conditions.
Cariuma has also worked with the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), a third-party auditing body, to ensure that its factories become Gold Rated by the group’s standards. Those inspections and discussions occur yearly, he said.
“Creating a safe space to come to work every day is vital to our success,” he said. “The mental, emotional and physical health and well-being of our workers is our top priority. We put people at the center of everything we do.”