Stewardship Council Certification
For Paper, Furniture And...Shoes?
Some of us have
heard the term "FSC-certified" before, especially when shopping
for furniture or paper products. But there's a new trend in town:
Rubber is ubiquitous. It's used to manufacture thousands
of our every day products. We use it to erase our mistakes (pencil
erasers), to protect us from STDs (condoms), to brace ourselves on the
tennis courts (tennis shoes) and to celebrate special occasions
Recently we caught up with Anne, owner of Autonomie Project, and discussed Fair Trade,
FSC-certification, and movement within the industry:
Why did you choose to work with FSC-cerfified materials? Was it
difficult finding FSC-certified rubber?
All natural rubber certified by the FSC is truly the most environmentally-friendly
alternative possible for the soles of the shoes. We thought about using
rubber made from recycled tires, but we would have had to source the
materials from far away, and the transport to our Pakistani factory plus
the pollution from the recycling process would have offset its
eco-friendly elements. Instead, our rubber hails from neighboring Sri
Lanka from a plantation that is both environmentally certified by the FSC
and Fair Trade certified by FLO. The rubber earns its certification
because it is completely natural with no added toxins or chemicals, and
is tapped from a tree (like maple syrup!) in a sustainable manner.
We are very fortunate to have Dr. Martin Kunz on our
international team. Dr. Kunz was one of the pioneers of the Fair Trade
movement as the co-founder and first general secretary of TransFair
International (TFI) (which is now known as the Fair Trade Labeling
Organization (FLO) and is the parent organization of TransFair USA ).
Because of his knowledge and connections, the sourcing and certification
of our Fair Trade, FSC rubber was possible. When Autonomie Project joined
the team last year as their US distributor, the supply chain was already
set-up and ready to go for our sneakers!
Do you know of other companies that use FSC-rubber for
I am not aware of any other shoe brand that uses
FSC-certified rubber. Many mainstream brands (Home
Depot, Crate and Barrel, Comcast)
are now using FSC-certified paper and wood in their products and
marketing materials. But as far as I know, our use of the FSC is completely
The team in Europe has now developed the
FSC rubber into new fun eco-friendly products such as balloons and
condoms. The next FSC product we'll get here in the States are flip flops
made 100% out of the FSC-certified rubber and packaged in an organic
cotton carrying bag. We're super excited about them and they'll be here
Why is Fair Trade important to you?
Fair Trade has always been important to me. I inherently
believe in a just world where workers rights are upheld and people from
all over the world, no matter how rural or poor they may be, have the
opportunity to participate in our global marketplace and get paid fairly
for their work. I believe that Fair Trade is one of the only methods that
can successfully alleviate global poverty and assist the working people
of the world to lead sustainable and healthy lifestyles.
Since we've only been in operation for 4 months, I have yet
to personally visit the shoe factory (although I'm planning to go as soon
as I'm able). Dr. Kunz visits about every 3-4 months though and they have
been independently audited and certified by FLO. I do have TONS of
stories about the workers and the people of the community that have been
affected by our work there. For more info, please check out our website blog.