It was in 2003, auditing a Chinese factory for a French fashion brand, that Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion saw one of the failures of globalization. They found 30 workers crammed into a tiny room with a single hole to drain the shower and allow them to relieve themselves. It led them to deconstruct the sneaker supply chain and create a prototype shoe they called Veja, using products -- including sustainably harvested natural rubber -- from Brazil. In 2004, they befriended rubber tappers in the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve in northwestern Brazil and began buying coagulated latex rubber from nearly 1,200 families in the Amazon. In the past 15 years, they’ve purchased 1,928 tons of wild rubber. Veja sells more than two million pairs of shoes a year and pulled in $115 million in 2020 -- without any advertising.

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