Industry News

Beyond Green: Sustainability Grows Up

April 19, 2016 | 0 Comments

Companies have increasingly realized the importance of green products and technologies. Still, some elements of the process remain daunting to decipher. Going green is just one factor in a more holistic sustainability picture, and green fabrics and materials represent an even smaller slice of the bigger pie. Look at it this way: While it’s hard to deny that our climate is changing, maybe we should step back from green—if even for a second—and instead consider brands and suppliers who support a broader consciousness. If it feels right, it usually is. Before considering your mainstay brands, meander over to the far side of the Show floor and meet the people in Sourcing Snow.

THE BUSINESS OF SNOW

Eric Carlson, global design and marketing director for Smith, explains that, to Smith, sustainability means maintaining business and customers. This trickles down to everything from having materials that are traceable to the source (transparency and honesty) to lean manufacturing. Upholding a conscious business model is in the company’s DNA; it’s part of their daily work. By providing long-term commitments to suppliers and looking at net cost, rather than commodity shopping, Smith takes on the responsibility of keeping the market, and the businesses in it, sound. “If we are overbuilding, we are supplying extra product that dilutes the market,” he says. All of Smith’s goggles are still hand-built in the U.S. in their Utah facility. This cuts lead time, allowing them to adjust production based on unforeseen circumstances like winter weather patterns. And less than 4% of the brand’s production accounts for closeout, a fact that keeps retailers loyal. “Accessories can really impact sales,” Carlson says. “We make sure to drive healthy margins.” And while its eyeglass frames are 50% bio-based, using oil from the castor plant, Carlson puts less weight on the eco-aspect and more on product quality and the consumer experience. ”We’re more focused on building the product correctly than promoting how we build it,” he says.

FORWARD-THINKING SUPPLIERS

3M partners with several industry companies, including snowboard brands like Quiksilver, Roxy, DC and Vans. With operations in more than 70 countries—and with 55,000 products—3M is “intricately woven into the global economy.” Its common goal of improving everyday life includes building sustainability into its design process. Compass, 3M’s in-house sustainability workbook, provides a guide for employees on items like environmental impact, social innovation and attribute mapping. Global Business Manager Paul Colbert says that sustainability and all its aspects—including both social and environmental—weaves its way into the complete lifecycle of the company’s product.

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David Rubin, 3M

COMPANY CULTURE

Dakine’s sustainability picture involves something more akin to the “Aloha Spirit,” an attitude of friendly acceptance that Hawaii is famous for, says Vice President of Design Alistair Nicol. Taking it one step further, the brand’s mantra also refers to a healthy way to resolve any problem or accomplish any goal. He explains that this attitude goes handin-hand with the snowsports lifestyle, especially among the younger employees in the company. “They want to work in a place that matches their values,” he says.

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Alistair Nicol and Bettina Bayer, Dakine

These values are also apparent in its supply chain, says Bettina Bayer, product line manger for women’s packs and bags. When she visits Dakine’s overseas factories she is impressed with the steps the brand takes to reduce waste. For example, bluesign-certified Duraflex implements an automatic system that grinds and reuses the plastic waste created in the mold process for buckles (the ones found on Dakine’s packs). As an added bonus, the reground plastic creates a stronger product, says Mary Smith, regional sales manager for Duraflex. Aspects like this boost Bayer’s confidence in Dakine’s offerings and the responsible stance it upholds. Bayer adds: “Consumers are asking more questions. They want to know where it comes from.”

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Mary and Kate Smith, Duraflex

Similarly, Patagonia, one of the industry’s leaders in sustainable practices, has a tiered and vetted process when it comes to the 86 factories it works with worldwide. Factories are evaluated on their physical environments and working conditions, among other things. And if they lack in one aspect, Patagonia works to help them achieve better standards. It’s basically Relationships 101. “None of it is one-dimensional,” says Corey Simpson, PR and communications manager for Patagonia. “It’s (sustainable thinking) in the entire way we do it.” So before you shop green, look at the bigger picture—one that pats green on the back, but more specifically fosters the health of the snow industry and the integrity of the companies within it.

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Corey Simpson, Patagonia

Read the full article from the SIA Snow Show Daily, Day 3. 

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