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The quest for responsible materials

July 2024

The quest for responsible materials

Finding materials that are less impactful on the environment without sacrificing outdoor performance isn’t easy, but we’ll never quit trying. 

We know from product life cycle assessments that the biggest part of a product’s environmental footprint comes from producing the materials used to make it. That's why we put a great deal of effort into selecting materials with a lower environmental impact.

Oscar Darle, Material Technologist Manager 

 

What makes some materials less impactful than others?

“It’s about the measurable impact a material has in terms of water usage, chemical usage, and energy usage,” explains Oscar Darle, Material Technologist Manager at Haglöfs.

Here, we talk with Oscar about Haglöfs’ Preferred Materials List and our ongoing quest to reduce the overall impact of our products without sacrificing outdoor performance.  

 

How much can you minimize impact without sacrificing outdoor performance?

While finding materials that are less impactful on the environment is relatively straightforward, finding materials that also uphold outdoor performance standards like durability and waterproofness can be particularly challenging.

“A material might have a really low environmental impact but poor durability and won’t last long, which can’t be considered a responsible solution,” says Oscar. “On the other hand, it might be a very durable material with poor resource efficiency, which is not what we’re looking for either.”

The only way to discover the right balance is through trial and error, a process that takes place during the early stages of product development.

An example of how we are testing the boundaries of responsible performance at Haglöfs is by rethinking waterproofness. That means exploring fabrics that can provide acceptable waterproofness for specific activities while allowing a significantly lowered impact within the production process. Another example is our Mono Proof project, where we are attempting to build durable products that are fully recyclable. However, as Oscar highlights, trying to steer performance expectations in the outdoor industry can be a daunting task.

“We are used to a certain level of performance in our outdoor gear. Performance requirements are pushing us to use super materials with more than 20,000 millimeter water columns, for example. But about 100 years ago, more natural materials actually did pretty well, but maybe with different expected outcomes of a day out.”

 

Our Preferred Materials List

To guide the Haglöfs product team in their choices, we work with a Preferred Materials List that focuses on resource efficiency, chemical use, emissions, and ensuring our supply chain is traceable.

Our goal is to prioritize materials from this list while ensuring that product durability and performance are not compromised. By 2025, our aim is for 100% of Haglöfs styles to incorporate recycled or renewable materials. This applies to the main fabric and insulation used in clothing and hardware. Styles containing renewable materials must meet the criteria on the Preferred Material List, and styles made of recycled materials must contain at least 50% recycled content.

 

“Our Preferred Materials List includes traceable merino wool, organic cotton, recycled synthetic materials, and traceable down via the RDS standard,” says Oscar. “It makes it easier for us to make better, fact-based choices. We get support from third-party organization initiatives who help us create this list, which is especially helpful when it comes to complex issues such as how to work responsibly with animal products like down or wool.”

It’s not set in stone, however.

“The list we have today might not be the list we have tomorrow,” explains Oscar. “It is constantly evolving as we are always learning new things, considering new aspects, and looking at the bigger picture.” 

What advice do you have for people who want to buy products made of more responsible materials? 

“Checking labels for certified materials is a good place to start,” says Oscar. “I can also recommend doing some research and choosing brands that are thinking about these issues, questioning things, and trying to make the right decisions.”

 

Key takeaways

  • Selecting materials with a lower environmental impact is crucial for reducing the overall footprint of our products.
  • Finding the right balance between low impact and outdoor performance is challenging but necessary. At Haglöfs, we are still learning and our Preferred Materials List and third-party partners provide essential guidance in this quest.
  • As a consumer, you can help contribute to positive change by choosing products made with certified materials and choosing brands that are committed to sustainability (watch out for greenwashing and don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions).

 

Want to learn more about how we work with lower-impact materials?

Read about our materials here and check out our annual Sustainability Report for the latest progress.