Greenwashing. It’s a word you may have come across before. It refers to a bamboozlement by phrases and words that give an impression of sustainability or ecological credibility without the detail to back it up. You see, it’s easy to claim that a certain product is “made with recycled content” or that materials are “ethically sourced” without providing the details.
One reason for this is that not all manufacturers are quite as environmentally responsible as their marketing material might suggest. But putting that to one side for the moment, and assuming that most outdoor brands are sincere in their responsibilities, the main problem in verifying such claims is the complexity of material supply chains and manufacturing processes. This can make it difficult, if not impossible, for the average outdoor enthusiast to establish exactly how green their kit purchases are.
Equip Outdoor Technologies Ltd, the parent company behind the leading outdoor brands Rab and Lowe Alpine, have stepped up to the plate with a way of making their sustainability credentials far more transparent and easier for everyone to understand. How? With their Material Facts.
What is Material Facts?
At its core, Material Facts uses pioneering information tables to allow consumers to get an accurate picture of a product’s data, including sustainability credentials, in a clear, concise and honest way.
Since September 2023, Material Facts tables are available for all Rab apparel and sleeping bags, accessible online either through scanning a QR code on the product hangtag, or by visiting the product pages on the Rab website – there's even an archive for older products. These tables provide detailed but easy-to-understand information on recycled content, fluorocarbon status and production information.
Crunching the numbers
The Material Facts totals take the weight and recycled content of each individual component, and calculate that as a percentage of the overall weight. And because Rab wants you to have the whole story, there are separate figures for the individual components. For example, while many modern waterproof jackets may have a recycled or partially recycled face fabric, this is only 1/3 of the story. Rab’s Material Facts tables show the recycled content in the face fabric, membrane, and backer of their waterproof jackets, giving you the full picture.
Rab have tried to be as accurate and broad as possible, capturing as much data as they can, all the way down to the zip pull and care label. And in order to keep the data tables simple and easily comparable, all calculations are based on an average size (UK men’s medium or women’s size 10) for consistency.
Of course, this information would be of limited use if it was only applied to the most sustainable products. But because transparency is one of the key goals, Rab is providing Material Facts data for all their apparel products, not just the ones with the most impressive eco figures. Because of this honesty you may find that fluorocarbons still pop up on some of the tables, particularly with Rab’s most technical products.
However, Rab is working hard to eliminate them from all their ranges by Autumn/Winter 2024, and when they have you can be sure that the Material Facts tables will be updated. After all, this is the beauty of the digital format - information can be added and figures amended as things change.
The future of Material Facts
By the end of 2024, all Rab and Lowe Alpine packs, equipment and accessories will include Material Facts tables. But Equip don’t want to leave it at that. They see Material Facts as a solution for all sorts of brands, from footwear to equipment, and are challenging others to join them in sharing sustainability information in the same transparent way.
“Communicating sustainability information is complex and means different things to different people, often leading to misleading claims and greenwashing. We’ve developed our non-branded Material Facts program to provide consumers with enough information to make their own educated purchasing decisions.”
Equip product director Tim Fish