Because outerwear brands are dependent on nature to stay in business you'd think that these brands produce with respect for it. Sadly, this only holds true for some.
Dominique Luttik • 30 November 2020
When you're hiking or climbing a mountain you expect outerwear to keep you warm and dry even in the harshest conditions. Because outerwear is designed with those purposes in mind, the used materials can be highly specialized and garments can consist of many components.
Because of this, there are often lengthy supply chains involved with risks in every step of the production process. Luckily there are brands like Patagonia and Vaude that have been experimenting with materials, chemicals, and other aspects of the outerwear industry for decades. These companies have changed the way outerwear is made and raised the bar for every other brand in the fashion industry in general. But unfortunately, there are also companies that still produce outerwear with a lesser focus on making it in a sustainable and ethical manner.
If you're going to buy a piece of outerwear you most likely want to hang on to it for a lifetime. Because there is such a big difference in how companies make these products, let's make sure you buy from the right company.
This German company is amazing. They produce extremely high-quality products and make sure that every aspect of their business is as responsible and fair as can be. It can be expensive, but if you're going to buy something from them you can make sure you have it for life.
We love Patagonia. The activist company has been pioneering for years by building the best products they possibly can while causing no unnecessary harm. Patagonia is a force for good, that shows in every aspect of its business. So why are they not a leader? Patagonia aims to make the best product they possibly can. Because they believe there is no durable alternative for PFC, they still use the substance to make its products waterproof. Other outerwear companies have phased them out. Decide for yourself.
Save the Duck is an Italian outerwear brand with a heavy focus on sustainability. The brand does great on particularly transparency and more sustainable materials. Most of its garments are certified by Oeko-Tex or Bluesign. Save the Duck is also a B-corporation and a member of 1% for the Planet.
Picture Organic is a very transparent and sustainable French outerwear brand. The brand is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation and a B-Corporation. Also, a large percentage of its materials are certified by third-party organizations like GOTS and Bluesign. Definitely a force for good, we’re impressed!
Finisterre is a British outdoor brand. With a radical name that translates to ‘end of the world’, this brand is born to be sustainable. Luckily they practice what they preach. The brand is transparent about how they source materials, certified by external organizations, and actively reducing its waste. Transparency on worker conditions can be better though.
Jack Wolfskin is a big German outerwear brand with a global presence. Despite its size, the company manages to be completely transparent about how and where its products are made. The brand does very well on labor rights and is one of the few outerwear brands to completely eliminate PFC from all its products.
Norden Project is a newcomer and build with sustainability in mind from the ground up. The brand is completely vegan, transparent, and working with mostly sustainable materials like recycled plastic. Even though Norden Project is relatively new the brand is already a B-Corporation. There’s room for improvement, but we expect great things from this brand!
Icebreaker makes clothing from merino wool fibers which is a lightweight and breathable material from New Zealand. While this brand is definitely not for vegans, they source these fibers humanely, without sheep mulesing. This makes them a good brand to purchase a more sustainable base layer or sweater to wear in the outdoors from.
Arc’teryx is a Finnish-Chinese high-end outerwear brand. When we think about Arc’Teryx, the premium price tag for the products come to mind. Unfortunately, the premium price tag is not premium because it's made sustainably. Though there are lots of targets, there’s also a lot the company can improve upon before they qualify as a sustainable outerwear option.
For a British outerwear company that’s been around since 1981, they have had plenty of time to become a more transparent company. In the contrary, there’s no sustainability report, no supplier overview, and no clear overview of what materials are used. Rab does offer a lifetime guarantee and score points on materials, packaging, and waste. But there’s not enough transparency at the moment to recommend them.
Kathmandu was founded in New Zealand in 1987 and has become one of the staple outerwear brands. While the company has set ambitious climate goals, the company is simply not transparent about material origins and workers’ rights.
Yuki Threads is an Australian snowboard brand that excels in material usage and it’s membership with 1% for the Planet. We’d love to recommend this brand but the brand is currently not transparent enough about how its products are made. There's insufficient information about worker rights in its supply chain and there are no certificates for animal materials.
Wuxly is a Canadian outerwear brand that was founded in 2012. The brand produces everything in Canada and is completely animal-free. It’s unfortunate that Wuxly is not transparent about material usage, emissions and other aspects of environmental performance, because those are the main reasons why we can’t recommend the brand.
Berghaus is a British outdoor brand that’s owned by British Pentland Group. The company is a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which conducts independent audits for the company, and has partnered with ACT to improve living wages in its supply chain. Despite these memberships, there’s a lack of transparency in its reporting.
Haglöfs is a Swedish outerwear brand that’s been owned by Asics since 2010. The company is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation and offers an elaborate overview of where its materials originate and why it uses them. There are still improvements to be made however. Not all materials are sustainable yet and for a company this size we expect tracking and reporting about its carbon footprint.
The American outerwear brand positions itself as a sustainable brand, but there is not enough information communicated by Coalatree to back that up. Origins for animal materials like wool and down are not specified and in what factories products are made is not always communicated either. They might produce more sustainable than other options, or they might not. More transparency is needed.
The North Face is a huge company, owned by the fashion giant VF Corporation. Unlike most other options in this list the materials the brand uses are largely unsustainable. Animal materials originate from uncertified sources and the company still uses partly virgin polyester and nylon. The North Face is also not PFC-free. If sustainability is a concern to you, we don’t recommend The North Face.
We all want Fjällräven, with its Arctic fox logo and iconic Kanken bags to be a sustainable brand. It’s really unfortunate that the Swedish company does not provide the same level of transparency as its competitors. Worries are particularly about its material sourcing policy and worker rights in the supply chain.
Columbia is an American company that’s mostly known for its jackets. While the company is improving, there’s a huge lack of transparency about most topics. Supply chain information, workers’ rights, and material sourcing are the main topics of concern.
Peak Performance is owned by Amer Sports, the same company that owns Arc’Teryx. Just like with Arc’teryx, the information that’s provided by the brand is not transparent and even feels cherry picked at times. There are lots of targets though, but currently, words speak louder than actions.
Salomon is a French outdoor brand, founded in 1947 and also part of Amer Sports. Because reporting is the same for all brands, they also obtain the same rating. The mother company publishes a sustainability report, but it’s lacking transparency, which is why we don’t recommend any brands under the umbrella of Amer Sports.
Burton is an American snowboarding brand that’s founded in 1977. Burton states that sustainability has become a part of everything they do, but there is too much information missing to back that claim up. It’s not clear what its absolute carbon footprint is, there’s no overview of where materials originate and no transparency about workers’ rights.
Mountain Hardwear is an outdoor brand that’s part of the Columbia Sportswear Company. There’s not enough transparency about its supply chain and the mother company has yet to set any substantial climate targets.
Note that not buying is best of course. Most sustainable outerwear brands offer repairs on their products. If you really need to make a purchase you can also consider buying a second hand from one of these options:
Let us know if have any questions, comments, or if you feel like a brand is missing from this list at firstname.lastname@example.org