Pollution and Toxics
Most of the brands in this guide were started by outdoor enthusiasts themselves. You would think they would do everything they could to protect the environment that their customers will be out to explore. It is disappointing then, to see that all the companies covered lost some marks for pollution and toxics.
Only Jack Wolfskin scored an outright Best for its Toxics Policy due to aiming to ban all dangerous chemicals from its entire production chain by 2020. They also, along with Patagonia and Mountain Equipment, only use cotton that is organic. Paramo and Howies also got a best ranking for being smaller companies offering more environmentally conscious alternatives.
Rank a Brand in the Netherlands have just released new rankings for the sustainability of Sports and Outdoor brands, covering issues including child labour, fair wages, environmentally preferred materials, toxic chemicals and the reduction of carbon emissions.
Here are the rankings of the brands we have also covered:
- Jack Wolfskin and Patagonia – ‘Reasonable, Could do Better’
- Berghaus, Helly Hansen North Face and Regatta – ‘First Milestones, Should be Better’
- Columbia – ‘Don’t buy’
Chemicals in Waterproof Jackets
Images of pristine nature are often used for advertising outdoor clothing. But nature does not remain untouched by the chemicals in weather-resistant fabrics. In September 2015, Greenpeace launched the Detox Outdoor campaign to get outdoor brands to eliminate the use of toxic PFCs to waterproof their products. This is part of Greenpeace’s wider Detox campaign which they began in 2011.
What are PFCs?
PFCs are per- and polyfluorinated chemicals, which are used for their ability to repel water, dirt and oil. PFC use can also be identified by various other names including PFOA, PFOS, PTFE and PFAS.If an outdoor jacket is waterproof and doesn’t say it’s PFC-free, it may well contain them. The widely known and used materials Gore-Tex and Teflon use a PTFE membrane. You will see many companies using the term DWR (durable water repellent), which in many cases will contain PFCs.
Who's using PFC's?
The only brand in this guide taking a strong position against PFCs is Paramo but some companies are doing more than others.
||Test each batch of material for fluoride to stay PFC-free
||Use a polyurethane (PU) coating. Not clear if totally PFC-free
||Committed to eliminate hazardous chemicals by 2020
||Some PFC-free options in 2016
In the last guide to outdoor gear in 2010, we commented that workers’ rights policies in the outdoor market were lagging behind other clothing sectors, largely due to lack of scrutiny. There has been some improvement in supply chain policies this time, partly helped by Jack Wolfskin, Mountain Equipment and Sprayway signing up to the Fair Wear Foundation initiative. But only Jack Wolfskin, Paramo and Patagonia get our best rating for supply chain management. Most of the companies still score worst for supply chain management and workers’ rights.
However, in 2014, the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) and the European Outdoor Group (EOG) industry body, did produce a report called Living Wage Engineering which recognised the potential for outdoor gear companies to become leaders and pioneers on living wages.
The Cruelty Behind Down-Filled Jackets
Down is a prized commodity for the outdoor equipment industry. Every year, hundreds of tonnes of it are processed, from millions of ducks and geese.
But you may be shocked to hear that these geese and ducks can have their feathers plucked while alive, repeatedly for years, and that the more you ‘live-pluck’ a bird, the more sought-after is their down for its higher ‘fill-power’. Down and feathers may also come from birds that have been cruelly force-fed for the controversial paté, foie gras.
Many outdoor gear manufacturers state that the feathers they use come only from birds that were reared and killed for meat, and that were only plucked after slaughter. However, there is often very little traceability within the supply lines of these companies.
Outdoor companies now leading the way
Although 90% of down used globally is in the bedding industry, momentum for change eventually came from outdoor companies, with Patagonia, The North Face and Mountain Equipment each developing their own standards – the Traceable Down Standard (TDS), the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), and the Down Codex.