This Vancouver-based vegan shoe company donates to charity with every pair

Grounded People prioritizes sustainability, fair wages for workers and charitable giving

Credit: Grounded People

Grounded People prioritizes sustainability, fair wages for workers and charitable giving

Max Justus chose a meerkat for his shoe brand’s logo—and not because he has an affinity for The Lion King. To Justus, the animal embodies one of the core values of Grounded People: “The meerkat is one of the most social animals on the planet; they always work as a team,” he explains. 

Justus founded the Vancouver-based shoe company in 2020, with sustainability, fair wages for workers, and charitable elements at the forefront of his business plan. The shoes themselves have a pretty traditional silhouette (“We took a stylish chuck and added our own vibe to it,” says the founder) but the ethos behind them is mindfully modern.

Grounded People’s shoes are designed in Vancouver and manufactured in a 100-percent vegan factory in Brazil. The cotton used to craft them is recycled (in a past life, the shoes may have been old curtains, bed linens or T-shirts) and the soles are made from discarded car tires. According to Justus, the brand aims to minimize its environmental footprint while maximizing its social impact.

The lace program is perhaps the best example: with every shoe purchase customers can pick an additional pair of laces, and the colour corresponds to a charitable organization. Yellow laces signal the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation; dark green donates to One Tree Planted (a charity working to rebuild the Amazon rainforest in Brazil); burgundy benefits Red Rover (they provide care for animals in crisis); and multicoloured laces, appropriately, go to Rainbow Refugee. The laces are free to the purchaser, but each pair makes a $12 donation to the corresponding charity. 

The shoes come with a five-year warranty, which is another important part of Grounded People’s goal: longevity. “We want to add more value than just being a shoe company—we want to be a social movement,” says Justus. “All companies should be looking to have social impact as part of their business model.”