Outdoor gear company Arc’teryx flies towards a circular economy
In the front yard of the Coast Mountains in North Vancouver, Canada, Arc’teryx, an outdoor clothing and climbing equipment company, is building a circular economy.
Now he’s ready to share more of that story with his clients, who spend time climbing, hiking and skiing these mountains and peaks in other parts of the world. Today the company launched its ReBird platform, a centralized hub on the company’s site that gives customers insight into its circular initiatives – from upcycling and resale to maintenance and repair. ReBird also shares educational resources on what a circular economy is and how customers can help Arc’teryx continue to evolve its circular operations.
“We are trying to create clarity for our [customers] that we care about that, it’s really important to us that we move forward by experimenting a bit, ”said Katie Wilson, senior director of social and environmental sustainability at Arc’teryx.
The company started implementing circular strategies for its products years ago – for example, it launched its used gear program in the United States in 2019. In this program, Arc’teryx accepts used equipment that is still in good condition. From there, the company cleans and repairs used equipment before reselling it online at lower prices. For the exchange of equipment, consumers receive a gift card with 20 percent of the equipment’s original value.
In 2019, Arc’teryx processed nearly 5,000 articles in the first six months of the program, on which it partners with Trove, and the company said the program continues to grow. (For context, Trove is the company behind the resale programs offered by Patagonia, Levi’s, and Lululemon.)
But for Arc’Teryx, the message to its clients about its work has not always been a priority. The ReBird site is a one-stop-shop where they can discover all the ways to engage with the company on its circular initiatives. For example, as a user of the site, one person will learn why saving waste is not the way to go and how the company’s used equipment program can extend the life of items. They can also go directly to the Arc’teryx Trade and Resale Center to start trading in their own gear.
“I think it’s really important to know that if we don’t bring them with us, it’s a real lost opportunity to drive change across the company,” Wilson added.
For companies that implement circular economy processes such as product take-back, material substitution, rental services or repair initiatives, storytelling is important in convincing consumers and other businesses. Like Mike Hower written last year, “If we hope to unlock the full potential of the circular economy, we will need to ensure that it is widely understood and embraced – and not just by sustainability fools.”
In 2020, Arc’teryx has set two scientific goals: to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 65% by 2030; and reduce Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 65% per unit of value added by 2030, both compared to the 2018 baseline.
According to the Arc’teryx sustainable development site, the latter goal means “to reduce carbon emissions per unit of value added to our business value chain”, including all carbon emissions related to its materials, products, factories, factories, shipping and distribution centers.
Wilson said the company knew that a circular approach would be a big part of its strategy to achieve these goals in two key areas, sourcing more recycled or waste materials for the design of its products and making sure relying less on virgin materials.
“I think we all realize that the less our business success depends on extracting new raw materials, the better for the planet,” she said. “We are really trying to decouple our growth from our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Wilson noted that part of ReBird’s motivation is to change mindsets. Here’s a question Arc’teryx hopes to answer with its new online platform: “How can we encourage more people to collectively start repairing or trading in their products so that someone else can use them instead of let them collect dust? “
Circular strategy in motion
In addition to the ReBird website launch, the company also released its first recycled products this week, made from materials from Gore-Tex waterproof jackets returned under warranty.
Wilson noted that Arc’teryx maintains high repair standards and that authorized warranty repairs to its products are performed at its local Arc’One factory in New Westminster, B.C., as well as Switzerland, Denmark. and in Norway. In 2019, it averaged about 27,000 warranty repairs per year in North America and Europe. Its products are distributed in more than 3,000 points of sale around the world, including more than 80 branded stores.
Several years ago, Arc’teryx noticed a problem that it believed it could fix. He received jackets that were sometimes irreparable and could end up being thrown away.
“Rather than ditching them, we wanted to make something new with them,” said Greg Grenzke, Director of Product Design for Arc’teryx.
“Last year this pile of merchandise got sorted – what can be fixed for resale … and what has enough samples of good material to be fit to do something new,” Wilson said. .
He decided to use this pool of materials to craft a tote and pouch. “With all of these recycled products, we want to make sure that we are solving a problem. Not just making more products to bring to market,” said Grenzke.
Another way the company tries to keep textile waste out of landfills is to use “roll end material”. It’s hard to know exactly how much footage a business will use. “It’s just natural that you have leftovers sometimes,” Grenzke said.
But sometimes when these leftovers can’t be donated to a college or sold to another organization – the two practices Arc’teryx has used in the past – the materials end up being thrown away.
The company’s design team wanted to create more uses for the end of the roll. They developed a windbreaker called Stowe Windshell ReBird to use end-of-roll textiles.
Grenzke said that since the inception of the company, she has always believed in making the most durable equipment possible. “This is the base where we come from,” he said. “But now, we want to make it as durable as possible with the least impactful materials possible.”
All of these products are launched in small batches, but Arc’teryx plans to expand these types of offerings in the future.
“Upcycling is a huge effort,” said Grenzke, who noted that the company collects materials for upcycled products in-house. Other companies with similar objectives – Coyuchi, The north face and prAna, to name a few – appealed to organizations such as The renewal workshop help.
Arc’teryx also rethinks materials early in a product’s life, according to its leaders.
She is a member of the Textile Exchange, a non-profit organization in the fibers and materials industry, and has started using the organization’s preferred materials platform to inform her fiber choices. According to Preferred Fibers and Materials Market Report 2020 Textile Exchange, all down used in Arc’teryx products is certified to the Responsible Down Standard, and the company is working to upgrade its wool supply to the Responsible Wool Standard.
Arc’teryx isn’t the only outdoor equipment company to have recently made the effort to switch to materials and fibers that are more responsibly sourced, recycled, or have less impact on the environment. In April, Canada Goose engaged according to a plan that will allow it to source 90% of the materials it uses in its products from the Textile Exchange’s list of preferred fibers by the end of 2025.
Arc’teryx plans to continue to reiterate its circular initiatives and continue to share its progress with its customers. When the company has new ReBird articles to launch and other information about its upcycling, resale, and maintenance and repair initiatives, it plans to share that news on the platform.
“This is just the start for us,” Wilson said.
This article was first published at GreenBiz.com