Last week we started an amazing quest. It’s been thrilling to see how thousands of supporters, nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts asked their favourite outdoor brands a very simple and straight question:
“Which of your products are made with PFCs?”
Let’s start with the most positive answer first! It came from the Swedish brand Fjällräven: “We have worked with phasing out PFC’s for many years now and from 2015 we do not use any PFC’s in our fabrics.”
Unfortunately, all other big brands that did answer had to admit that they are still using hazardous PFCs.
Brands like Vaude and Jack Wolfskin have at least set elimination dates for the use of PFCs in their products by 2020. It seems like they are nearly ready to detox but they need to make the timeline for elimination more ambitious and work on transparency in their supply chain. As brands who claim to love nature and respect nature lovers, Outdoor companies must take leadership for a better environment; making a genuine and credible commitment to stop using hazardous chemicals – with ambitious schedules and concrete deadlines for PFC substitution.
Other brands such as Patagonia, Mammut, Decathlon, Arcteryx, Salewa and Haglöfs took their time to answering your concerns and we don’t think you should be satisfied with their responses. While Patagonia admitted PFCs are a problem they need to solve they have not set an elimination date, as they “don’t feel comfortable promising a path forward that hasn’t yet been identified” This is difficult to accept considering that PFC-free alternatives are already available on the market.
Mammut was the first brand to respond but it turned out it wasn’t entirely honest. Mammut wrote to you that their “PFC-free weather protection clothing (outer layer)” was marked with a PFC-free icon. When one of our supporters asked about this icon in a Mammut flagship store, it was nowhere to be found. Some days later, the store followed up and informed our supporter, “all hard shell jackets are made with PFCs. Only our midlayers, t-shirts, shirts and underwear are PFC free.” This is not exactly what you would expect from a credible brand.
Last but not least, very relevant brands on the market such as Columbia and The North Face, ignored your questions completely, and we believe this demonstrates that they don’t really care about polluting the environment or being transparent with their own customers and fans.
Many brands responded that they replaced long-chain PFCs (e.g. PFOA or PFOS) with short-chain PFCs. A few of them also admitted that this was not a good solution. This is because the more studies are done on PFCs, the more evidence we have that they can be a problem for the environment and our health too. Recently, more than 200 scientists from 38 countries signed the ‘Madrid Statement’, which calls for elimination of all PFCs, including short-chain, from the production of all consumer products, including textiles, in line with the precautionary principle.
So why are those brands not moving firmly to eliminate those hazardous chemicals and still continue to be dependent on them?
The main excuse used by brands for still polluting nature with hazardous PFCs is that alternatives don’t perform as well and are less durable. But not a single brand made reference to a test or actual data underlining this claim.
The good news is that some small brands like Paramo, Fjällräven, Radys, Rotauf and Pyua already demonstrate that its possible to produce durable and high performing gear without PFCs. How do we know they perform as well as others?
Greenpeace teams tested PFC-free products on eight expeditions around the globe – including to Haba Snow Mountain, 5000 metres above sea level. We hiked through wind, rain and snow using durable, high-performance outerwear. All of our clothing withstood these conditions and all of it was PFC-free. We purchased our jackets, pants and backpacks from small outdoor brands that already have entirely PFC-free collections. To stop polluting the environment with hazardous chemicals, big leading brands have to follow their example and get rid of PFCs in all of their products.
Thank you so much for taking part in this PFC-Quest, a first important step to detox the great outdoors together. Here you can check yourself the responses of brands and tell them your opinion on it. Let’s keep the pressure high on our favourite brands, demanding PFC-free production!
Chiara Campione is the Detox Outdoor Corporate Lead with Greenpeace Italy. @chiaracampione on Twitter.
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