Durable products are the basis of sustainability at Arc´teryx

Putting high performance, durability and low environmental impact together is not an easy task. However, it is an important one. Actions that are in line with values matter when consumers make their choices. Arc’teryx strives to make the world’s best performing, longest lasting outdoor gear.

Drummond Lawson, Director of Sustainability at Arc’teryx, still uses his Arc’teryx Bora backpack from 1995. With its heavyweight nylon fabric, robust zippers and dense foams, this 22-year old pack is still in great shape. The long lifespan of this particular Bora pack reflects the design philosophy behind all Arc’teryx products.

Better durability, less environmental impact

Lifecycle assessment studies reveal that the manufacturing and sourcing of a garment comprise approximately 65% of the environmental impact over its usable life. However, to get to whole picture, you also have to consider the lifespan. Let´s take Drummond Lawson’s Bora backpack as an example:

“Making a cheaper, simpler, lighter, and less durable pack of the same size would have had less impact in manufacturing. But if you spread the impact of Bora to its lifecycle of 22 years, you get significant benefits compared to building and replacing three or four less durable backpacks over the same time.”

The equation is simple; a long lifespan effectively reduces environmental impacts.

Extensive repair program

Achieving performance as well as durability can be challenging for the design and development processes.

“By combining performance and durability, we create a significant win-win situation: better product experiences for users, and lower environmental impacts across the full lifecycle,” Lawson says.

Arc´teryx takes good care of its products even after the purchase. For example, the company runs an extensive repair program.

“We call this function ‘after sales’, as it encompasses our product engagement with users following the purchase. The unique capabilities we have from hands-on prototyping and sample sewing here in our head office are the source of our repair expertise. We know the right materials choices and the best construction techniques.” 

“There is real pride in applying this knowledge to keeping products in the field as long as possible. We collect detailed data on return rates and the specific reasons for product failure, and seek to use these as feedback for future design work.”

Materials matter

Also the materials play a significant role. For example, Arc´teryx uses only short chain fluorocarbons to improve water repellency.

“When a Norwegian chemicals regulation was introduced that targeted a specific contaminant present in long-chain PFCs (namely, PFOA), our decision was to act across all markets to comply with the strictest law globally. Moving forward we plan to maintain this proactive approach with future generations of lower impact, high performance chemistry”.

There are still many controversial materials or processes in the textile industry.

“Textiles production is often a highly polluting industry and requires careful management. The restricted substances list in use within Amer Sports and Arc’teryx is based on the bluesign® system materials approach and has hundreds of materials of concern that we explicitly prohibit in our products.”

The bluesign system guarantees that products carrying the certification label are made exclusively of a combination of components and processes that are harmless to human beings and the environment.

“The bluesign partnership is a very valuable tool as we pursue high quality, safe, and lower impact materials. As a design organization, we love the ability to make informed choices about our impacts, and the bluesign tools offer us a clear way to validate the safety and environmental quality of the fabrics, trims, and chemistry we rely on.”

Sustainability creates loyalty and trust

Real durability and low environmental impact matter when consumers make their choices.

“The brand’s ability to speak about its values and show how it acts on them is not only important in the market; it is the basis for much more meaningful interactions and much greater loyalty and trust”, Lawson points out. “This includes environmental impacts, but also the brand’s commitments to its stakeholders.”

Today, Arc´teryx studies several ways to lower lifecycle impacts while delivering performance and durability.

 “We’re only at the start of the journey and that there is a long list of opportunities to reduce impacts, drive meaningful innovation, and deliver long-term value to the brand.”

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