Corporate social responsibility respected in the outdoor industry
Fair production and animal welfare. The outdoor industry has listened and responded to criticism from interest groups more than virtually any other industry. As a result, animal welfare organisations are praising outdoor firms and when it comes to social standards, the industry is meeting the strictest multi-stakeholder demands. During OutDoor 2016 – the leading industry trade show in Friedrichshafen (July 13 to July 16, 2016) – these issues will continue to be high on the agenda
Ducking the issue is not an option. The impetus provided by campaigns from different interest groups might have been on occasion painful, but the outdoor industry has faced up to the criticism and ultimately shown that high social standards, fair production, animal welfare and sustainability are all possible. There is no excuse not to be addressing these issues. This is something that will be abundantly clear at the OutDoor, both at the booths and in the conferences and presentations, where the industry will be further discussing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The list reads like a who’s who of the outdoor industry: Deuter, Dynafit, Haglöfs, Jack Wolfskin, Maier Sports, Mammut, Mountain Equipment, Ortovox, Salewa, Schöffel, Sprayway, Vaude. Although these brands are competitors, when it comes to supply chain responsibility and good working conditions and labour standards they are allies. As such they are all members of the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) – a multi-stakeholder organisation that promotes, improves and audits rigorous social standards. In addition, the brands Adidas, Fjällräven, Kathmandu, Patagonia and Prana are members of the American equivalent – the Fair Labour Association. “Overseeing the whole supply chain and ensuring transparency – from raw materials to finished product – is one of our biggest and most important challenges. This is a project which is never finished, instead it’s an ongoing process, which we continue to monitor and optimise,” says Christiane Dolva, CSR Manager Fjällräven.
CSR and raising social standards is an issue which is by no means straightforward, however the outdoor industry is blazing a trail and also calling for greater commitment from others. “As a FWF member, we are in a position to be able to press ahead with new CSR projects. But it is also very important for the right political decisions to be taken to ensure long-term living wages around the world,” explains Melanie Kuntnawitz Head of Vendor Control Jack Wolfskin. Vaude has a similar opinion. Hilke Patzwall, CSR Manager, talks of “The industry’s obligation to provide” and also calls for “stronger, binding measures from policy makers.” The outdoor industry feels that fair production should be the norm, as “functional and fair are by no means a contradiction in terms,” according to Herbert Horelt, Country Manager Germany, Haglöfs.
The outdoor industry is also leading the way on animal welfare. Down is indispensable for making lightweight and warm functional jackets. However, down with live-plucking and force feeding is unacceptable – and the welfare of birds should be respected. Mountain Equipment has been setting an example for transparency for eight years now with its ‘Down Codex’ from the ‘International Down and Feather Laboratory’ (IDFL); the same applies to Fjällräven with its ‘Down Promise’. Schöffel, has signed up to the ‘Cruelty Free Down Challenge’ organised by international animal welfare organisation ‘Four Paws’. The outdoor industry was also the driving force behind setting up the ‘Responsible Down Standard’ (RDS) with Allied Feather & Down and Textile Exchange two years ago, to make it easier to procure certified down. Most brands now act in the same way as Salewa, “Since the end of 2014, we only purchase RDS-certified down and have started to label our products accordingly,” says Marie Måwe, CSR Manager Oberalp Group.
OutDoor 2016 will see the launch of the new ‘Responsible Wool Standard’ (RWS) – an equivalent standard for wool. Working together with Textile Exchange, the RWS aims to promote international standards for animal welfare, farming and pasture management, to ensure maximum transparency in the supply chain. For years now, the leading brands Icebreaker and Smartwool have been using ZQ-certified merino wool. The new ‘Responsible Wool Standard’ will make it possible for others to adhere to similarly high animal welfare standards.
The industry has come a long way, but it’s not there yet. “Sustainability is a long journey. Nature is the foundation and origin of our industry,” says John Jansen, President of the European Outdoor Group on outdoor activities and the environment. He emphasises that “This is why sustainability is essential for our success in the future.” And this is why the outdoor industry is happy to take a lead, “We can’t leave it to end consumers to take responsibility,” stresses Norröna CEO Jørgen Jørgensen.
OutDoor 2016 is open to trade visitors only from Wednesday, July 13 to Saturday, July 16 (Wednesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).