Columbia Sportswear Company
PrAna is an outdoor brand that’s part of the Columbia Sportswear Company, an American outdoor company that also owns Columbia, Sorel and Mountain Hardwear. The mother company only publishes one sustainability report, which we consulted for prAna’s rating. Fortunately, the outdoor brand distinguishes itself from the other affiliated brands by promoting sustainability on its own website.
PrAna scores extra points on material use. For example, it uses recycled wool and 100% Organic cotton, which is either OCS or GOTS certified. Unfortunately, there’s not enough transparency concerning the other materials. It’s unclear what percentage of (animal) materials is actually certified. To a large extent, we still have to base our judgment on the sustainability report of the parent company, which also lacks transparency.
The Columbia Sportswear Company states that it sources 50% of its materials from Bluesign certified facilities, but we’re in the dark concerning the other half. We see that the company uses a large amount of polyester, which is derived from oil and harmful to the environment, but we have no clue about what the actual percentage is. Most companies currently include tables with percentages of materials being used in their reporting, and this piece of the puzzle is missing at Columbia. Animal materials are somewhat okay: the down is certified through the Responsible Down Standard and sheep mulesing is forbidden, but the company does use uncertified leather.
PrAna also shows that it considers human rights important, as it works together with Fair Trade certified facilities. Unfortunately, in this area as well, it’s unclear what percentage of factories is actually certified. We, again, have to consult the parent company's sustainability report, but the Columbia Sportswear Company is simply not transparent about its supply chain. It’s a member of the Fair Labor Association, which has an elaborate Code of Conduct that gets audited by third parties, so we can assume that basic workers’ rights are being upheld. However, they could be improved through an organization like the Fair Wear Foundation to ensure payment of a living wage, of which there are currently no mentions.
The mother brand’s report doesn’t provide further information about environmental action. The Columbia Sportswear Company has yet to set any substantial climate targets. Its reporting is incomplete and doesn’t include the relevant data that we need to fully understand its operation. Even though it’s in possession of the environmental data, such as energy efficiency and carbon emissions, it’s missing in the reports. The only mention of renewable energy relates to the headquarters, where the American company uses a very small percentage. There have been experiments with better packaging projects, but they’re not really notable. Shipping in the US always happens through the UPS Carbon Neutral program and a list of production facilities has been published. On the upside, the company does mention that it’s looking for suppliers to implement energy efficiency and carbon emission reduction initiatives and that it works together with the Higg Index to improve its environmental performance. All in all, prAna distinguishes itself from the other affiliated brands by offering more information, but it’s just not enough to position them as a sustainable brand.