Sustainability. That's a big word and hard to break down to pieces. But we'll try.
We are a brand that produces footwear so let's start off by saying that we are not claiming to be a green company. We ship raw materials in from different parts of Europe, craft our shoes in Finland and deliver finished products to retailers and end consumers across the world. Is that sustainable?
Well, it is not. But in a world full of low quality goods, over-consumption and labour exploitation we try to be a better option out there. To be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
We work actively to minimize our environmental impact. Below we have broken down our production process.
We design our products in Helsinki, Finland.
One of the main reasons for us to start Tarvas was to design meaningful and functional products. Items that serve a purpose. That means our collections are not filled with hundreds of products just for the sake of maximizing the supply. We actually started Tarvas with a single product, the Explorer.
In our Helsinki workshop we have the tools (and the know-how) to handcraft prototype shoes which makes creating products extremely efficient and sustainable. Before launching Explorer we crafted countless prototypes in our workshop to make sure every millimeter serves its purpose.
Our space in Helsinki serves as a prototype workshop, studio and office.
What do we mean by functional design?
- We follow the design principles of many masters from the past. We believe that form follows function, which means there shouldn't be any unnecessary elements in a product.
- Through functional design our products can be used in various situations. You can, for instance, use the same gear when you take a stroll outdoors, but also in the city. No matter if it’s a sunny day in the woods or if there's slush on the streets. Having multifunctional products reduces the number of items you need in your wardrobe.
- Lastly, for us, functional design means that the products are crafted using high quality raw materials and the end product should be long lasting and ideally repairable. We are piloting a re-soling service during 2021 in order to give new life to used Tarvas shoes.
Pekka working on a prototype pair, circa 2017.
We source our raw materials from European vendors.
There are many questions that people are asking about raw materials - rightfully so. It is quite a complex matter and there isn't just one right material to use. Most materials have good and less good qualities, depending on how you approach them. We use high quality raw materials designed to stand the test of time. We source our raw materials ourselves from European vendors and are directly in touch with the material suppliers. Starting from 2020 we have also sourced deadstock raw materials from around Europe and are starting to bring upcycled options alongside our inline collection.
Below you can find the material suppliers we currently partner with.
Our fabric suppliers:
- C.F. Weber, Germany
- Foxa, Finland
- Omnipel, Italy
- Orneule, Finland
- Pontetorto, Italy
Our leather suppliers:
- Conceria Opera, Italy
- Conceria Tirrena, Italy
- Kokkolan Nahka, Finland
- Richard Hoffmans, Germany
- Tärnsjö Garveri, Sweden
- Corticeira Viking, Portugal (cork fillings)
- Haine Paelavabrik, Estonia (shoe laces)
- Carl Klostermann Söhne, Germany (shoe laces)
- Pidigi, Italy (padding materials)
- JOMO thermomolding, Germany (insoles)
Máximo Internacional, Portugal (insoles)
We have specified the material composition for each product in our webshop under "material specification".
We manufacture our products locally.
The shoe industry in Finland has shrunk to a fraction of what it used to be. Gone are the heydays of the 70s and 80s when millions of pairs of shoes were produced in dozens of factories.
Some might think that starting a shoe brand that produces locally is a utopia in this day and age. But for us it was an important value driven decision.
Luckily we found one of the last mohicans from a small town of Parkano, located some 250km northwest from Helsinki. Ari and Sanna, a couple who have been in the shoe business for more than 30 years, own a small-scale factory, which makes it possible for our shoes to have that stamp: "Made in Finland".
View from Ari and Sanna's place which has became our home during the factory visits.
Our workshop where we come up with ideas and craft product prototypes of a product is a 2-hour train ride from the factory where we manufacture our end product. That's quite unique among footwear brands.
When we produce locally and avoid so called "risk countries" we make sure the working conditions are good, employees receive sufficient wage and the other human rights matters are taken care of.
To open the production process in a simple way: the raw materials and
components from our material vendors (listed above) are delivered to the factory in Parkano, where the cutting, sewing, assembling and finishing take place. This may sound easy, but shoe-making is not easy. There are dozens of smaller processes that go into building a shoe and sometimes even the slightest slip can be enough to turn shoes unwearable. Sometimes these slips take place, but we work hard to finetune the construction and production processes to champion the end product.
We always take part in the production and are working alongside the factory staff to help them out, and as it often happens, to fine tune our knowledge about shoe making.
Surely sustainability is not only about how you maneuver your brand's product from drawing board all the way to the end consumer. There are other topics related to how you run business in a sustainable way.
For example, at our workshop in Helsinki we use renewable energy and carbon compensate our outgoing freight. But one topic we want to bring up and hopefully raise some discussion about are tax avoidance issues. Tax avoidance is not just a financial problem for tax authorities, it is one that weakens organizational integrity, and most of all, our society.
Tax revenue is essential for the support of necessary government functions such as public welfare and transportation infrastructure. There are too many companies that utilize public resources, but at the same time go to great lengths to avoid contributing to fund those services. That's not a sustainable way of operating a company, is it? Tarvas is registered in Finland and we pay our taxes to Finland.
Where to get better?
We acknowledge that we have much room for improvement in regard of sustainability. Here are key points we want to focus on during the years 2021 - 2022:
- Start calculating the carbon footprint of the whole supply chain
- Grow the share of recycled and upcycled materials in production
- Grow the share of vegetable tanned leathers in production
- Start using recycled packaging materials
- Search for suitable certified sustainable initiatives to take part in. For example the "B Corporation", "1% for the planet" or other.