Nina Granerød, one of the founders behind the Scandinavian flip-flop brand Sleepers, reports in our interview how the idea for a sustainable flip-flop from Norway came about. Since 2019, Sleepers are on the market with the Fair Rubber logo, and more than 100 000 pairs have been sold globally.
As Norwegians, how did you come up with the idea of producing flip-flops?
People often say, ‘Flip-flops from Norway?!’, finding that contrast quite funny. But we have perhaps a bit of a different lifestyle to some of our fellow Norwegians. We all live abroad – my husband and I, Frode Grønvold in Bali and Thor Marius in Lanzarote – and are always on the beach wearing flip-flops, so for us it makes total sense. We saw the human effect on the environment up close: pristine beaches filled with plastic and rubbish.
After working in fashion in our native Norway, the need to contribute with something more sustainable grew. One late evening, on the beach in Lanzarote, we came up with the idea of creating a positive alternative to the environmentally unfriendly flip-flop.
That’s how it all started, with the thought of making something that people actually need to use instead of creating just another unnecessary thing.
You wanted to create a sustainable flip-flop from the very beginning. How did you go about it?
We worked closely with sustainability experts to find the most sustainable material. Different options were scrutinized – algae, recycled rubber, natural rubber – but we landed on the latter, since it is far better than recycled rubber, which usually only contains a small amount of recycled material in each sandal; the rest is just plastic.
Why did you decide on Fair Rubber?
We did not only care about the eco-friendly aspect, but also the workers’ rights, wages, facilities, and general conditions. Searching for the best natural rubber producers, we worked closely with the Fair Rubber Association to find certified suppliers meeting their high standards.
It was quite a complicated process to gather all the information, but eventually, we ended up in Sri Lanka. The plantations we currently work with are FSC and Fair Rubber certified.
You recently visited the plantations in Sri Lanka. What did you experience?
We went as a family to visit the Kelani Valley Plantations, supplier of our Fairly Traded natural rubber. We experienced a great atmosphere and people working under good conditions. For example, they have a school for the children of factory workers that is paid for by the Fair Rubber Premiums, which is funded by licensees such as our company. I think it is great that the people there know that their kids are getting an education. The working hours are also fair and people seemed happy from what we observed.