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REI comes up with stringent sustainability norms for suppliers

"With growing eco-landscape, retail giant REI has come up with a new set of sustainability standards, which will apply to 1,000-plus outdoor brands it sells currently, and the ones it will sell in the future. With immediate effect, companies will need to abide by the code of conduct, pledging to uphold environmental and social responsibility in the supply chain. REI encourages brands to use either REI's own factory code of conduct or a code of conduct that’s aligned with internationally recognized best practices, like those published by the International Labour Organization. Companies will also have until 2020 to remove BPA, oxybenzone, long-chain PFAs, and certain dangerous flame-retardant chemicals from their products, and to make sure all their down and wool is sourced humanely."

 

REI comes up with stringent sustainability norms for suppliers 002With growing eco-landscape, retail giant REI has come up with a new set of sustainability standards, which will apply to 1,000-plus outdoor brands it sells currently, and the ones it will sell in the future. With immediate effect, companies will need to abide by the code of conduct, pledging to uphold environmental and social responsibility in the supply chain. REI encourages brands to use either REI's own factory code of conduct or a code of conduct that’s aligned with internationally recognized best practices, like those published by the International Labour Organization. Companies will also have until 2020 to remove BPA, oxybenzone, long-chain PFAs, and certain dangerous flame-retardant chemicals from their products, and to make sure all their down and wool is sourced humanely. If a company refuses to make these changes, REI will terminate contract with those suppliers and look out for other players.

REI has also listed a host of ‘preferred attributes’, including Bluesign approval (certifying a chemically cleanREI comes up with stringent sustainability norms for suppliers 001 manufacturing process); fair trade certification; use of the Higg index (a metric designed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to enable companies to measure their own sustainability attributes); adoption of the Responsible Wool Standard and either the Responsible Down Standard or the Global Traceable Down Standard (all third-party auditing groups that certify humane treatment of animals and best use of the land they graze on); use of organic cotton; and use of recyclable or compostable packaging.

Greg Gausewitz, Product Sustainability Manager, REI says the preferred attributes will be one of the many factors REI takes into account when considering creating a relationship with a new company. They are also intended to call attention to the brands that are using those certifications, educate customers about why those certifications matter, and build demand and loyalty for those products.

Backed by strong groundwork

Since last summer, REI consulted around 60 brands as it drafted the new standards. Gausewitz points out, the company wanted to make sure the standards were feasible, not just for big companies like Patagonia but for up-and-coming brands too. For Nemo Equipment, it’s difficult to carve out time and resources to figure out what you should be doing on the sustainability front, highlighted Theresa Conn, supply chain and sustainability coordinator, Nemo. With these standards, one can easily pick the top 10 things to spend their energy on.

Does money matter?

Throwing light on this very crucial subject, Ali Kenney, VP-global strategy & insights, Burton says costs are only high if you try to implement change right away. But if you take a longer-term view, the costs are lower. That’s because companies often do product development two seasons ahead. To implement supply chain changes now would mean switching up the manufacturing process for items that are already in production, possibly re-prototyping and perhaps even switching factories, none of which is easy. Implementing change two years in the future, on the other hand, means the company has time to start from scratch with its new line.

Many brands use the same factories, and if they are going to those factories asking for sustainable practices, it’s easier to effect change. Indirectly, one can get a large number of suppliers working toward common positive outcomes. Danielle Cresswell, Sustainability Manager, Klean Kanteen, observed there weren’t resources or guidelines for going green. It found out that partnering with high quality factories was a critical investment because they are able to meet more stringent environmental standards. Naturally, those factories are more expensive. However every company must make trade-offs and choose where to put limited resources.

 
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