On the way to a sustainable outdoor industry, companies are needed that blaze new routes to unexplored heights and then help lead the way there for others. Meet the most recognized sustainability leaders and find out what sets their efforts apart.

Arc’teryx: Circularity Innovator

When it comes to sustainability, this Canadian producer of top-in-class performance wear takes the long view. Products are first to be made responsibly, using preferred materials, and as durable as possible. Once made, the trick is to keep the product in circulation as long as possible. This is where its ReBIRD circularity program comes in, which through a combination of its ReCARE, RePAIR and ReGEAR second-hand platform can see a product go from season-to-season and user-to-user, for a very long time.

Arc’teryx has set ambitious Science Based Targets to tackle its climate emissions and is on track to meeting them, and as a bluesign system partner Arc’teryx also employs solid chemicals management across its supply chain. Arc’teryx is also a regular supporter of initiatives that promote diversity in the outdoors.

Photo: Arc’teryx

Cotopaxi: The People’s Champion

This Utah-based brand has all the usual trimmings of a company that is serious about sustainability: It is both B Corp and carbon neutral certified, for example, and nearly its entire collection (+90%) is made of repurposed, recycled or responsible materials. But what truly sets Cotopaxi apart from the rest is its Gear for Good promise: Making durable gear as ethically as possible and using its business model to help eradicate poverty.

As a 1% for the Planet member, Cotopaxi uses this percentage of its revenue to empower communities in Latin America, focusing on promoting health care, education and local livelihoods.

Photo: Cotopaxi

Edelrid: Hard Goods Pioneer

Compared to apparel, hard goods have been seen as lagging in terms of sustainability. But Edelrid has been a notable exception in this tough segment, demonstrating that high sustainability and safety standards can indeed be compatible. In fact, Edelrid first made its sustainability debut with a dynamic climbing rope made using old, recycled climbing ropes. This is a degree of circularity that even apparel still has a hard time matching.

Since then, Edelrid has become a bluesign system partner and continues to ensure industry leading chemicals, energy, water and waste management across its supply chain. As a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, Edelrid also takes a strong stance on social responsibility and produces the bulk of its products in a German EMAS and ISO 14001 certified facility.

Photo: Edelrid

Fjällräven: High Emotional IQ

Swedish Fjällräven is one of the few top-tier brands that knows how to do two things well: Build its products responsibly using preferred materials and fair labor practices, and build them tough enough to last for years.

But there’s a third element that many others often miss that Fjällräven gets just right: The relationship to the user. Products need to be versatile enough to see them used by both weekday commuters and the weekend warriors, and they need to be timeless enough to survive the shifting trends, year after year. Only after they’ve been around long enough and joined on enough adventures do people develop an emotional attachment to these products. This relationship sees Fjällräven products being repaired rather than thrown out, and handed down from grandparents to children to grandchildren.

What does this matter? It’s the actual number of times worn, not how long it can survive in a closet, that determines the overall impact of a product.

Photo: Fjällräven/Håkan Wike

 

Icebreaker: Prefers it Au-Naturel

Some prefer to not take sides on the synthetic vs. natural debate. With a website that asks, “Plastic against skin, really?” this New Zealand brand makes its position pretty clear. Icebreaker’s philosophy is simple: Nature has the solutions. And when it comes to performance apparel, this solution is wool. Wool not only has superior thermal properties to any synthetic alternative, it also has the advantage of not being derived from fossil fuels, requiring less washing, and not causing harmful microfiber marine pollution. Icebreaker uses ZQ-certified wool to ensure traceability and animal welfare and is also pioneering regenerative farming principles within the ranks of its wool suppliers.

But when not championing wool, Icebreaker also provides exceptional insight in its annual transparency report, and as a VF Corp brand has also set Science Based Targets for its climate emissions.

Photo: Icebreaker

 

Ortovox: Protecting People & Environment

The mountain sports company Ortovox combines brand, product and sustainability strategies in a particularly coherent way. In all areas, “protection” – of people, the environment and wildlife – is a central value that determines actions and decisions. “Protect what we love” is the motto.

Accordingly, the sustainability strategy ProtAct2024 was developed, which summarises all important steps on the way to more sustainability at ORTOVOX. The focus areas are animal welfare, social responsibility, supply chain, climate protection, environmental protection and durability.

Ortovox has already reached its climate protection goal one year before the target date of 2024 – with the climate-neutral winter collection 2022/2023. The summer collection 2023 is 99.13% PFC-free. 100% of the wool is mulesing-free, and Swisswool from nearby Switzerland has been used to insulate outdoor clothing since 2010. More than half of Ortovox products are now made in Europe and the company confirms its Fair Wear Leader status year after year.

Ortovox

Photo: Ortovox

 

Osprey: Recycling’s Guarantor

Already with its founding in 1974, this Colorado-based backpack brand has staked its reputation on the long-lasting quality of its products under the All Mighty Guarantee. This states that they will repair any damage or defect on Osprey backpacks, no matter how old the pack, for free. And if they can’t fix it, they will replace it.

Fast-forward to a few years ago, at a time while many still hesitated on whether recycled fibers could be used for anything more than a t-shirt. Osprey was one of the first that went all in to prove they could be trusted to take on such a degree of heavy wear and tear. This was a huge vote of confidence, considering Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee, and many more have since followed suit. Today you will find a broad selection of Osprey backpacks, primarily made using Global Recycled Standard and bluesign approved fabrics.

Photo: Osprey

 

Patagonia: Where to even begin?

When it comes to sustainability, Patagonia is the one brand that needs no introduction. Head and shoulders above the pack, this California-based brand is B Corp certified, has most of its products sewn in Fair Trade Certified facilities, and works diligently developing robust environmental, social, and animal welfare responsibility programs. While some of these initiatives have been reactionary responses to criticism, the fact is many are outright revolutionary, and it is this that sets Patagonia apart: Its ability to inspire, often blazing trails through sustainability terrain that nobody else had even known was there.

One example is that in 2022, Patagonia announced an organizational model that ensured 100% of its profits not reinvested in the company would perpetually be used to fund environmental initiatives via two foundations. This was nothing short of mind-blowing, not just in the outdoor industry, but in any industry.

Photo: Patagonia/Campbell Brewer

 

Reima: Securing Future Generations

While some adults might risk exposure to a suspicious chemical for a particular product performance feature, most would think twice about putting this on their children. This is why kids wear brands have often led the way in terms of sustainability.

Finnish brand Reima is no exception and takes this to the next level. Kids are notorious animal lovers, so Reima uses only RDS certified down and RWS certified wool to ensure the highest animal welfare standards were used. Nearly all of Reima’s apparel collection contains GRS certified recycled materials or GOTS certified organic cotton. They also increasingly use bluesign approved materials, meaning they have been produced with the strictest criteria for chemicals management.

The end result of these efforts is, of course, non-toxic apparel that Reima guarantees to be “clean enough to chew.”

Photo: Reima

 

Vaude: Climate Leader

This German brand has been at the forefront of sustainability nearly from its beginnings back in 1974, and as a result it has what can only be called a mature response to most sustainability issues today. It has widespread use of preferred materials, for example, clean production as a bluesign system member, and has “Leader” status with the Fair Wear Foundation. It has even developed its own rigorous sustainability certificate – The Green Seal – to identify the very best of its products.

But one place Vaude truly stands tall is in terms of its climate commitment. Since setting Science Based Targets, it has mapped out its entire climate footprint and begun systematically selecting materials, transport and manufacturing methods with lower climate impacts. Remaining emissions are then offset with recognized Gold Standard projects, resulting in Vaude’s entire product range being certified climate neutral.

Photo: Vaude

 

Lead Photo: Unsplash

SUSTON
jonathan.eidse@norragency.com
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