Swedish outerwear and backpacks



How sustainable is Fjällräven?


Fjallraven is a popular, Swedish outdoor brand. The company grew from an outdoor enthusiast who was unsatisfied with its gear to a big global player in the outdoor industry. The brand's iconic Kanken backpacks and its jackets carry the Arctic fox logo, which is the English translation of the world Fjallraven. The brand is currently part of Fenix Outdoor, a company that owns about ten brands who all focus on nature and outdoor life. Especially because the company seems to be environmentally friendly since its beginning, it’s interesting to discover how the company is currently doing. The outdoor industry is an environmentally conscious branch of the fashion industry for which the bar has been raised substantially by many pioneering companies. With that in the back of our minds, we find it unfortunate that Fjallraven doesn’t provide us with the same level of transparency as most of its competitors. The company doesn’t disclose its supply chain’s carbon footprint and the general way of reporting leaves blanks where there are supposed to be insights. For example, water and renewable energy consumption is mentioned, but actual data and percentages of the totals are left out. The same goes for generated waste, the impact of its packaging and recycling percentages. Fjallraven’s writings about material sourcing offer some insight into the materials the company uses in its production process, but the company can definitely be more transparent. What the outdoor brand publishes now, reveals that change for the better is coming and that it has definitely been sourcing a part of its materials more sustainably, but that a large chunk of their current materials remains non-certified or unsustainable at the moment. Cotton is roughly two thirds more sustainable, leather is not more sustainable and wool is 50/50 certified as more sustainable. Fjallraven does use down that is certified by the Responsible Down Standard. Like most outdoor companies a huge part of its material sourcing is polyester. Synthetic fibers are generally more durable and are waterproof, which are essential features of outdoor companies. Even though there’s no natural replacement for these qualities, the trade in recycled polyester has grown significantly during the last few years. Fjallraven is making steps forward and overhauling some of its iconic products like the Re-Kanken, which is now completely made out of recycled PET, but the total percentage of recycled polyester is very low. Where these materials originate from is largely unknown. Nevertheless, the company is not sitting still. The introduction of more environmentally friendly products and very ambitious climate targets the outdoor brand has set for itself are applauded. Fjallraven wants to be climate neutral by 2025 and is already offsetting its emissions heavily. It also expressed ambition for making products that are cradle to cradle and has implemented production techniques that reduce chemicals and water usage in its production process. Especially its chemical management is actively being improved through the partnership with The Swedish Chemicals Group and a witch hunt on PFC. Labor rights are not very transparent. Fjallraven does publish a supplier list and has a Code of Conduct that its factories have to comply with. It’s a member of the Fair Labor Association which conducts random, third-party independent audits in its factories, but neither the frequency nor the results of the third-party audits are shared by the company. In conclusion, the lack of transparency is worrisome and not a good sign for any company. Fjallraven is showing signs of improvement and is definitely not the worst in its industry, but there are many more sustainable outerwear companies.

Publication date: May 18th 2020
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