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As Sustainability Efforts Increase, Brazilian Footwear Sales Soar

Due to the consolidation of the recovery of the country’s footwear manufacturers, the Brazilian Footwear Industries Association, or Abicalçados, said footwear exports reached 123.6 million pairs in 2021 — generating $900.3 million.

Both unit volume and sales were up on a year-to-year basis with volume seeing a 32% gain and sales value rising 36.8%. Abicalçados said compared to 2019, “the figures are 7.4% lower in foreign exchange, but 7.3% higher in volume shipped.”

Haroldo Ferreira, executive president of Abicalçados, said the results “point to the consolidation of the recovery of Brazilian footwear manufacturers in the international market” and noted that in 2021, “exports were the main [factor] responsible for the recovery of the activity.”

Ferreira said the exchange rate and the increase in shipments to the U.S. “played a fundamental role in the growth of shipments” and added that the recovery “should continue throughout 2022. In the year, we should grow another 5 percent over the 2021 base.”

The robust results follow stepped-up efforts by the Abicalçados to spotlight the market’s high-quality and sustainable footwear. This includes teaming up with noted sustainable stylist Cassandra Dittmer.

Cristian Schlindwein, project manager at Abicalçados, said Brazil is the fifth biggest global footwear producer, and main source country in the West. “More than 900 million pairs are made annually in Brazil and are sold to over 170 countries. The fact that we have a country of continental dimensions and that unites different cultures in itself, is already a differential that is translated into footwear and fashion in general.”

“In Brazil, buyers can find the most varied types of footwear, in terms of aesthetics and materials, in all product segments, such as men’s, women’s and children’s,” Schlindwein said. “Besides the diversity of product segments, Brazil stands out for the wide variety of raw materials, from the most traditional, such as leather and textile, in addition to plastic and rubber, to the innovation of sustainable and eco-friendly materials.”

Brazilian footwear companies are also differentiating from other markets due to more sustainable practices, “which range from production processes to the final product, always taking into account not only environmental, but also social, economic and cultural dimensions,” Schlindwein said. “In this context, we developed the Sustainable Origin, the only sustainability and ESG program in the world that certifies companies of the entire footwear chain.”

Schlindwein also noted that sustainability means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the future. To ensure sustainable development, it is necessary to propose means that harmonize economic progress allied to environmental, social and cultural aspects.”

It’s important to point out that Brazil has the lowest CO2 emission (KG/GDP) compared to the biggest shoe producers in the world,” and Schlindwein said the country also has “the highest level of renewable energy on energy consumption (solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable energy sources) compared to the biggest shoe producers in the world, in addition to investment in environmental innovations.”

The Brazilian footwear industry’s commitment to ESG and sustainable practices is exactly what U.S. consumers, especially Gen Z and Millennials, are looking for in the products they buy.

For her part, Dittmer said there are brands and individuals who want to do good “and then there are brands that are actually willing to roll up their sleeves, and put in the time and effort required to evolve their standards and to push the industry forward.”

“I work with people ranging the spectrum of the eco-journey, some beginning and others pioneering,” Dittmer said. “As long as they are willing to prioritize and demonstrate their values-driven approach for how they benefit the people and planet, I am happy to work with them. I not only look to work with sustainability experts, but novices alike. I have found the eco community can feel a bit intimidating, so I prioritize calling in new people to build the community, instead of leaving out the eco curious. Current generations are interested and eager to invest in their wardrobes and seem more open to paying a little more for ethically made, sustainable goods, than generations before.”

She said these consumers recognize “fast fashion’s direct link to climate change and the link between fashion, sustainability and social justice issues, are surfacing at an extreme rate and it’s critical to have public resources that help unpack the complexities of sustainability in a digestible way and guide consumers toward consuming in a responsible way.”

Dittmer offers e-styling services to clients through her website via a tiered menu system that helps guide her digital clients to the styling package that best suits them. When asked what differentiates her from other stylists, Dittmer said she follows a values-driven approach “based on a set of ethical standards and processes I’ve created with my team.”

“These are principles or guidelines used when sourcing products, creating content for clients, and providing resources to the fashion community,” she explained. “Exploring what values are important to individuals or brands is crucial for the inception of any collaboration I take on. Sustainability in fashion, and in general, is being talked about more frequently than ever, and it’s largely the reason why clients find and reach out to me in the first place.”

Taking a values-driven approach naturally leads to aligning clients with footwear out of the Brazilian market where sustainable practices and quality-made products are a priority. Footwear companies such as Calçados Beira Rio S.A. have also taken sustainable practices to the next level with circular processes, while also bringing to market stunning designs made for the most discerning fashion footwear consumer.

Dioni Bourscheid, sales representative for the U.S. and Puerto Rico at Calçados Beira Rio S.A., said the company has invested and intensified circular economy actions, “with regard to the reuse of waste generated in the production process. Since 2016 the company does not send solid waste to industrial landfills. Part of the polyurethane waste material generated in our process is reused for the manufacture of hangers, eco modelers and mainly for the manufacture of new insoles.”

Bourscheid said in addition to the recycling of PU materials, “the PVC laminates waste is also forwarded to recycling companies, which transform them into polymers that are used in the manufacture of new soles.” Bourscheid said Calçados Beira Rio S.A. considers the “consumption of raw materials a topic of extreme relevance in its operations, understanding its role as a great motivator of an increasingly sustainable and circular supply chain, continuously promoting the development of materials that do not harm the environment.”

“Beira Rio has 100 percent of the packaging in recyclable materials, 93 percent of the composition of its corrugated are recycled material and 100 percent of the bushings, brown paper and plastic used are also recycled material,” Bourscheid said. “As for virgin raw material, all suppliers have a FSC-Forest Stewardship Council, ensuring the ecologically correct provenance of all wood used in the production of paper.”

This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.

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