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Outdoors brands struggling to protect the areas they encourage you to enjoy.

Updated: Feb 20

Written by Alice Worrall, a World Changer Co. intern based in Bath, UK.

Through their goals and objectives, a lot of brands are trying to operate in a more ethical and sustainable manner. In particular, a great deal of outdoor companies state that their mission is to enable customers to live active, sustainable lives. But some of those brands, like Columbia and North Face, might be having more difficulty to stay sustainable themselves.

Columbia aim:

Columbia create enduring, iconic, and innovative products that enable people to enjoy the outdoors longer. Their approach to product creation is combined with their commitment to the environment, communities, and customers.

North Face aim:

North Face strives to empower people to lead active, sustainable lives via everything they do, from the items they manufacture to the actions they take. In addition to focusing on commercial success, North Face is committed to improving the lives of millions of people as well as the shared environment and communities.

There are a lot of manufacturers and service providers who care about the environment, and many people wish to make decisions that will benefit the climate. In the event of greenwashing, which is defined as "an attempt to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is," it appears that merely accepting a company's mission statement is insufficient. Customers should challenge green terms and slogans and be sceptical of claims. Businesses who truly produce and market environmentally friendly and sustainable goods will provide details about the manufacturing process, such as working conditions, energy consumption, emissions, and the quality of the air and water. Those who are loud and proud appear the most trustworthy.

Unsustainability at Columbia

It's somewhat disappointing that Columbia, a company that promotes items with "minimal environmental impact," has an environment rating of "Not Good Enough." The brand uses moderate quantities of fabrics certified by Bluesign, as well as recycled and other environmentally friendly products. Regretfully, my research was unable to locate any proof that Columbia minimises textile waste throughout the manufacturing process or lowers its supply chain's carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions.

No supply chain in Columbia complies with labour norms that guarantee the health and safety of workers, livable salaries, or other rights. The outdoor gear company probably posts details about its audits, remedial procedures, and supplier regulations on its website, but it doesn't provide a detailed supplier list or information on forced labour, gender equality, or association freedom.

The American company has made some good initial moves, such as adopting cutting-edge and environmentally friendly materials, disclosing some details about its workings, and establishing a policy regarding animal care. However, these actions are insufficient to merit a higher ranking. In order to lessen its influence on the three major spheres of the planet, people, and animals, Columbia must cut back on its emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, minimise waste, increase transparency, stop using products obtained from animals, and give its employees a living wage.

Unsustainability at North Face

In terms of its environmental impact, The North Face offers a "It's A Start." In addition to using recycled and other environmentally friendly products, it has made it a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain and internal processes. Furthermore, despite the fact that 39% of the brand's textiles have earned Bluesign certification, we were unable to locate any proof that The North Face reduces packaging or is on schedule to reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The labour rating for The North Face is likewise "It's A Start." The American firm has a portion of its supply chain accredited by Bluesign, and according to the Fashion Transparency Index, it scored between 51 and 60 percent. The company releases information about the results of supplier audits, a comprehensive list of suppliers in the last stages of manufacturing, and details about forced labour, gender equality, and association freedom. The North Face has not done anything to guarantee that workers in its supply chain are paid a livable wage, and while it publishes strategies to shield suppliers from the effects of COVID-19, these policies do not protect workers!

The North Face is headed in the right direction, having made improvements to its environmental and ethical operations over the years. It has publicly committed to lowering its greenhouse gas emissions, although it is uncertain if it is on track to meet this goal. Nevertheless, there is still some progress to be made. Additionally, it continues to use problematic leather and does not guarantee that a decent wage is paid across its supply chain. We gave The North Face an overall rating of "It's A Start" based on these details as well as the data from our own investigation.

The North Face would need to start using more environmentally friendly materials, set water targets or goals, and start making sure the people in its supply chain are paid and given authority in order to raise its grade.

There are dozens of brands on the World Changer Co. Directory that are flourishing in contrast to others that are finding it difficult to adhere to sustainability. Take the incredibly ethical and environmental brands Alder Apparel, Patagonia, Prana, and Cotopaxi, for instance.

In Toronto, Canada, two friends named Mikayla Wujec and Naomi Blackman founded the outdoor recreation apparel brand Alder Apparel. Their mission is to design, produce, and distribute eco-friendly, inclusive outdoor apparel that honours the female form. They contend that having fun outdoors is a necessary component of pleasure and that the outdoor sector should lead the way in sustainability, inclusivity, and diversity rather than only concentrating on performance.

It is our duty to improve the lives of those who will follow us. Alder Apparel supports our beloved outdoors while using eco-friendly materials and ethical, open operations. Furthermore, they never stop improving things for the benefit of individuals, the environment, and our procedures. They think it's important to invest in the next generation, whether it be through manufacturing innovation or the prospects for young female explorers. Thirdly, they feature, encourage, and employ a variety of voices. Everyone should have access to the outdoors. Finally, they express gratitude for having access to the outdoors. They accomplish this by highlighting the sense of freedom we get from being outside, both in terms of how they depict the outdoors in our visuals and how they instill our culture within us.

Patagonia is an outdoor wear retailer based in the United States. Through their social responsibility initiatives, environmental and materials programmes, and their business practices, they are transforming as a corporation. Visit Patagonia's website to discover the numerous stories they have to share.

Beaver and Pam embarked on a quest in 1992 to create fashionable, eco-friendly clothing for people with active lifestyles. And they've progressed a long way from the days when they assembled every component by hand in their garage, transported goods in fruit boxes, and made hang tags out of recycled paper. However, their culture, principles, and mission have remained constant throughout.

The Sanskrit word prana is its origin. Its meaning is "breath," and it is associated with the universal energy that nourishes all living things and flows through us.

Cotopaxi is inspired by adventure to view the world and improve it. For this reason, they produce equipment that supports both outdoor activities and global change. Cotopaxi focuses on providing health care, education, and livelihood opportunities to empower communities in Latin America. One percent of their earnings is donated to the Cotopaxi Foundation, which helps charitable organisations such as United to Beat Malaria and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). They employ established procedures and double-blind research to make sure the giving is beneficial.

Being a carbon neutral business, they approach social and environmental sustainability from an integrated perspective. They make an effort to partner with factories that uphold human rights because their supplier chain is where the majority of the detrimental effects are felt. In addition, they select recycled, repurposed, or ethical materials, with the objective of incorporating "the Three Rs" into every product by 2025.

Lastly, Cotopaxi uses its certification as a B Corporation to harness the power of business for economic, social, and environmental good. By endorsing B Corps, you become a part of a global movement to improve business practices.

World Changer Co. Directory -


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