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We no longer call ourselves nor our products sustainable. This is just one of several terms that we have removed from our own vocabulary to avoid greenwashing and to become more transparent. Every item produced inevitably has an environmental impact, so being truly sustainable is impossible for anyone making and selling garments and equipment. It is high time that brands start talking candidly about what they are or are not doing to lessen their impact on the environment. In the end, this is what will allow people to make better choices about their equipment.
So how do we guide consumers to make more informed choices?
We used to label our products as “Sustainable Choice” based on criteria we had defined ourselves. In retrospect, this was an obvious mistake and a typical case of greenwashing. We were setting our own criteria and defining something as sustainable when it couldn’t possibly be so. Furthermore, by adding the "Sustainable Choice" label to too many products, its value was quickly diluted.
“In the end, instead of providing clarity it came off more as virtue signaling,” says Victor Adler, Global Marketing Director at Haglöfs. “So, we decided to challenge ourselves and raise the bar for how transparent and candid we could be about what, if anything, is sustainable about each product. That’s why we took the step to abolish the term “sustainable,” along with many other terms, in favor of communicating concrete efforts being made in relation to the specific product in question.”
All products produced have a certain environmental impact. That we have established.
Instead of focusing on a particular label or buzzword, we have decided to double down on the tangible activities that go towards decreasing the footprint of our products. All of our product claims need to be substantiated by scientific evidence, refer to achievements rather than aspirations, and should relate to each product’s environmental impact throughout its entire life cycle.
So, we have decided to wash off all ambiguous and generic terms such as “eco-friendly,” “green,” or “good for the environment” in addition to the previously mentioned “sustainable,” in favor of specific information such as whether a product contains recycled materials or is certified according to certain standards.
“By focusing our efforts where we get the most leverage and explicitly stating how each product is responsibly produced, we hope to equip our consumers not only with the best performance gear out there, but also with the best knowledge to continue enjoying the outdoors responsibly,” says Victor.
Does this mean that Haglöfs is not a sustainable brand?
The fact is that there is no such thing as truly “sustainable” industrially produced clothing – and that includes the clothing Haglöfs produces. But what we can do, is offer as much transparency as possible to our consumers and adventurers to empower them to make informed purchase decisions.
“By saying this, consumers who have their minds set on purchasing ‘sustainable’ gear may choose to go elsewhere, to brands that do offer ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ products,” says Victor. “But we don’t want to make our consumers think they are making sustainable choices when they are in fact not. True transparency allows them to make conscious and deliberate choices that decrease their environmental footprint.”
Now that we have forced ourselves to look at sustainability communication with our eyes wide open and see greenwashing for what it is, we want to push our consumers to do the same. Everyone should realize that all “eco-friendly” or “sustainable” labels need to be taken with a healthy helping of salt, if not outright dismissed as greenwashing.
Calling things out for what they are is a crucial step towards forcing companies to own up to their own environmental impact and their own (in)activity in this space. Without that accountability, companies will never have to step up and take the very hard, but vital, steps to do better and take the responsible actions that are necessary.