How This Brand Is Bringing Ethical and Sustainable Values To Skate Culture

Consumers – and their ability to spend in support of their values ​​- can drive business to be more sustainable and socially responsible. But research has shown that judging things that embody multiple goals is a cognitive challenge for consumers, and thus people simultaneously have difficulty evaluating the social mission of brands and other goals such as quality or price. Accordingly, there are not yet many brands that have succeeded in creating a social impact value proposition that influences consumers’ desire to purchase their products.

One new company trying to overcome these barriers is Cariuma, a ski boot brand that focuses on creating positivity in the youth culture and ski scene by leading by example, and showing that it’s great to care about people and our planet while at the same time delivering quality products. In 2021, the company was not only recognized as Best for the World™ B-Corp and thus is among the top 10% of certified companies in terms of environmental performance, but their shoes were also worn by skaters at the Tokyo Olympics, demonstrating their performance characteristics.

David Python, co-founder and CEO of Cariuma recently told me how the brand focuses on “ethics meets beauty” to deliver cool style with a serious heart in a way it’s never been done before.

Plus, I learned that one of the issues the brand sticks with is reforestation. This is a very special and personal project for the company where David and Fernando Porto were born and raised in Brazil. Python told me that from their first memories—living in and near coastal cities, where rainforests and the ocean meet—the emotional connection and interest in the natural world was fostered: “Reforestation is how we translate our mission into action and cherished memories of the future well.” Specifically, the company works closely with CEPAN, a Brazilian NGO that specializes in environmental restoration. At every stage of the reforestation process, CEPAN’s expertise and local roots facilitate a collaborative working relationship with indigenous communities.

As part of my research on purpose-driven business, I recently spoke with David to understand why he was involved in founding the company, the company’s unique vision and what they have in store for 2022.

Christopher Marques: How has your background in corporate footwear shaped your vision for Cariuma?

David Python: The experience we had helped us a lot! We wanted to build something that was in some way the opposite of what we’ve seen in the industry so far. He helped bring me and Fernando together, at first. We decided to do things differently than the industry does, and that motivated us because we knew we could do it if we were together. We have over 30 years of combined experience in the footwear industry, so we’ve seen how the industry works from the inside. We wanted to create a company and a brand that respected people and the planet

Marquez: I see a big part of the brand’s mission now is to bring its presence into the skate shops internationally – to bring sustainable and ethical values ​​to more skaters through their local communities. Can you tell us more about why this is important to you?

Python: Skate shops are one of the mainstays of skateboarding culture. For us, being in skate shops is also validating what we stand for, and for us that means our vision of combining sustainability with positivity and skateboarding is more than a possibility, it’s a reality. We have a deep admiration for the ski shop owners and their contribution, and not only does every skier know the shop they get their stuff but often the names of all the people who work there. So this connection between the shops and the skaters and the kids is something we greatly value, and for us, it is such an honor to be chosen to be on their shelves.

Marquez: Tell us a little bit about your Skate team and what makes it unique? I understand that you are the first B-Corp to have products worn by Olympic medal winners!

Python: Our number one value in the company is ‘start with who’, this is not only how we operate Cariuma but also how we build our brand. It is fundamental for us to be with the people we admire and share values, and it is true from the people we hire to the factories we work with, and of course the ski and surf teams we build. We are very happy to see how the team members individually represent what Karuma stands for, in their daily lives, but also when they are together on tour or in a competition. Cariuma’s ski and windsurfing teams are filled with people who want to make our planet a better place in their own way (and of course, they are great surfers and snowboarders!). Our goal is for all of us to feel challenged to be better and do good, but we also feel that we are in a safe environment where we can be ourselves. For us, it’s amazing to see that a B-Corp certified company that embraces the highest standards of sustainability can also create products and have great people on the team who perform at the highest level in the world. It’s possible, and we’re here to prove it!

Marquez: The team at Cariua said turning into B Corp has been a brand goal from day one, can you tell us a little bit about your journey here and starting Cariuma and your a-ha moment?

Python: The story is that Fernando and I chose each other before we chose which business to start or which product to create. Cariuma is the result of the two of us wanting to do something better with our lives. We knew we wanted to become business partners and create a brand that we could be truly proud of.

This came out of pain and disappointments from our previous experiences working in the fashion and footwear industry, we quit our executive positions and wanted to work for a great company and with great people, so we decided to create one! It was an A ha moment in the Chilean Andes.. We went with our wives skiing there and back and decided to join our ranks.

Starting from this mindset and personal goals, it became clear why gaining B-Corp certification made no sense to us from the start. B Corp certification means we adhere to the highest standards of sustainability and includes an in-depth audit of everything the company does. Every process, from supply chain management to governance, internal policies and people’s practices, is scrutinized and reviewed. We have seen accreditation not only as a way for us to check our standing and improve but also as a way to provide evidence for our community.

Marquis: Cariuma is the first ever skate shoe brand that B-Corp became. Why was obtaining this certification important to you?

Python: Certification is important to us in many ways, and being the number one skate shoe brand is part of that. Cariuma aims to bring positivity to the world, to do good, to respect people and the planet – this is one of our contributions to skateboarding, which is especially dear to Fernando (my co-founder) as a skater from a young age. I find it important to show that being a responsible company and adhering to the highest standards of sustainability does not imply anything to trade off. We are showing that one can earn B-Corp certification and have a durable, high-performance skate shoe worn by Olympic skateboarding medalists, many of the best street skaters, and world champions in the SLS Super Crown. We hope to inspire others to start other new brands, and perhaps even inspire major companies in our industry to make more meaningful changes.

Marquez: What other plans do you have for expansion in 2022?

Python: There is a lot of exciting things ahead for us in 2022. We just launched our CATIBA Pro (Our Professional Skate Sneaker) in September 2020 and to date, we only have these two skate styles and a total of five styles in the whole company! While this speaks to our product strategy of creating only durable and timeless patterns, there is still a lot to do and interesting patterns to release that are already in the oven. In addition, we are expanding into apparel as we received a lot of requests after our team members started wearing our clothes.

Additionally, there are two very exciting things about the 2022 schedule that are worth noting. First we’ll be in the best ski shop in the world, I just got back from a trip where I visited 11 countries in one month and had the opportunity to speak with so many great shopkeepers and retail partners in so many places, and I’m so excited about the energy out there. Especially in the current times, when the big corporate brands don’t pay much attention to their ski and surf shops, we are proud to say that their service is at the heart of what we do and the contribution we want to make.

Finally, it is also worth noting how far we have expanded the reforestation project. We run a large program in Brazil that includes the rebuilding of indigenous forests, and this is a major effort that goes beyond just a tree planting site that we communicate directly with clients. We promote biodiversity and scale a program that exceeds one million trees while communicating and collaborating with the Brazilian indigenous population. We are very proud of that, and it has a special meaning for me personally, as a direct descendant of the indigenous people of Brazil.

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