Pierre-Andre Senizergues' mission for a cleaner, more sustainable planet
Written by: Ian Joulain | Photography by: Mark Sacro
Pierre-Andr Senizergues, founder and CEO of Sole Technology, which produces action sports apparel and footwear for etnies, ThirtyTwo, Altamont, and more, slips into a pair of chocolate brown sneakers to better match his attire. The photographer sent to capture him on film scans the room, searching for the perfect shot. With some direction, Senizergues stands against the wall and the flash from the camera lights up the already well-lit room. In his various poses, Senizergues is part goofy and playful, but when it comes to his company and its stance on helping the environment, the founder/CEO is all business.
Senizergues is what many would call a doer ” he doesn't just talk about ideas, he puts them into motion. His tireless enthusiasm for his action sports brand has him working harder than ever, and now in his company's 25th year, Senizergues is enacting his most ambitious plan since his last one.
The Buy a Shoe, Plant a Tree initiative is a tall undertaking, and the goal is to help grow a rainforest in Costa Rica. Not too many CEOs out there are willing to go the extra mile in the name of helping out planet Earth, but for Senizergues it is the only course of action. The idea is that you have to give back, and in so many different ways we are taking [from the planet] all the time and not giving back, he says.
His newest idea stemmed, in part, from his involvement with the 2007 green-minded documentary, The 11th Hour. Senizergues served as executive producer for the film. After finding out that the then Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias, had presented the film to his government, Senizergues and Arias had a conversation. In talking to [President Arias], he told me he wanted to make Costa Rica carbon neutral by 2021, Senizergues says. With my company we wanted to go carbon neutral by 2020, but he is doing it for an entire country. It was then I realized that I have to do something with [Costa Rica] at some point to promote that country.
The Buy a Shoe, Plant a Tree project has a rather simple concept: for every pair of Jameson 2 Eco shoes sold, etnies will plant one tree in what will become the new rainforest. In a partnership with La Reserva and the Maleku tribe, Senizergues aims to plant 80 different species of trees for the rainforest, and so far etnies is on track to plant at least 35,000 trees on the Maleku reserve in northern Costa Rica this year alone.
When discussing how he came to choose the Maleku tribe for his latest green effort, Senizergues' eyes light up. When I went to [Costa Rica], I met the tree farmers and I realized that I had a connection with the Maleku Indians “ I learned that the Maleku Indians are the guardians of the trees, he says. Another amazing thing is the Maleku Indians are one of the smallest tribes in Costa Rica. Their trees are their life “ that is what they live off of. I realized that this is the tribe that we need to re-empower.
Senizergues is very candid when discussing how and why he went the green route. Too many before him were going green because it was the sexy thing to do, but few were going the length necessary to really make a difference. Worst yet, some would announce green plans and not follow through with their proposed projects. From the year 2000 onward, Senizergues has been in a class by himself in the action sports industry and has continually made good on all his promises. He leads by example and welcomes being held accountable.
The question Senizergues seems to field most these days is: Why do you spend so much time on the environment? After all, it doesn't necessarily sell more product, but for him that is not even a concern. His answer is a profound one. We do it because we feel it is the right thing to do. There is only one planet that we can skate on. There is only one planet that we can snowboard on or surf on. It just makes sense to take care of the only [planet] we have, he says.
As if Senizergues' plate wasn't full enough, last year Sole Technology, along with Volcom and Quiksilver, entered the Sustainability Collective. The group's aim is to be an independent advisory and resource group whose objective is to promote sustainability specifically within the action sports business community. We have been doing a lot with the action sports industry the last decade, but it seems there needs to be more done within the action sports industry, not just Sole Tech, Senizergues says. The Sustainability Collective's aim is to lighten the footprint for the industry as a whole.
For Senizergues it's clear that giving back is not just the right way for his company to help out the environment, it's the only way. He has kept his company private so that he can run it as he sees fit, knowing full well he doesn't want shareholders taking away from his company's green vision. Having to constantly meet quarterly goals isn't exactly Senizergues' style.
In his estimation, public companies are more concerned about return on investment every quarter. They are too busy focusing on the short term whereas Senizergues has his eyes set further down the road. For him, the health of humans and the planet is a life long endeavor.
We can't make a global difference in one quarter, he says. soletechnology.com