Fossil Free in Wider Circles

A project by Vaude has demonstrated that choosing renewable energy over oil and coal is a no-brainer, especially when production occurs in countries with good access to green energy.

In the German brand Vaude’s latest sustainability report, one can read that already in 2010 the company was using 100% renewable energy in their headquarters and factory in Tettnang, roughly 15 kilometers east of Friedrichshafen. Then suddenly in 2015, the percentage sank to 92%. The cause? Following a lightning strike, the waterproof bags production facility burned down and Vaude had to move production to a rented building. Here, they had to use the non-renewable energy provided by the landlord. But last year, production was able to move into Vaude’s newly constructed facilities, where around forty employees now produce Vaude’s “Made in Germany” packs’n bags collection. The facilities are fully powered by renewable heating and electricity, where Vaude’s own solar power system accounts for roughly 30% of the electricity need.

Where does responsibility begin and end?

In a country like Germany it is relatively easy to choose renewable energy. And as access has increased, the price has decreased relative to fossil-fuels. In other countries it may be more difficult. Many outdoor brands cooperate on a long-term basis with suppliers in Southeast Asia. In Vaude’s case, they have partnered with the Bim Son facility in Vietnam, with a thousand employees. One question that even the foremost sustainable companies wrestle with is where the company’s carbon footprint begins and where it ends. The road from production of materials to the customer buying the finished product is long. How do things look “upstream” from the suppliers? And “downstream” with the retailers? Vaude writes in their sustainability report: “Our longterm goal is to systematically expand the company’s climate neutrality to our other production facilities as well.” The company’s Sustainability and CSR Manager Hilke Patzwall is optimistic: “We are taking part in a WWF Germany project that tackles the topics of energy efficiency and switching to renewables in textile production in China and Vietnam. And we hope that all of us will close the data gap with the help of the Higg Index.”

Jonathan Fraenkel-Eidse

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