With its latest sustainability report, Vaude has launched an entire website that fully lists and explains in detail all of the company’s past, present and future actions.
By voluntarily signing the Greenpeace Detox Commitment, Vaude had already made a clear commitment in 2015 to gradually eliminate chemicals of concern by 2020 and to report transparently on this. In addition to PFCs, which were the focus of the commitment, ten other critical substance groups whose use and release into the environment had to be avoided were also included. Despite being a partner of the bluesign® system since 2001, critical substance groups have continued to exist then as well as now, and due to a lack of alternatives, they are approved and used. Their use is strictly regulated by limit values; however, even before the Greenpeace Detox Commitment, Vaude had voluntarily undertaken to eliminate these chemicals step by step. “When Greenpeace targeted the outdoor industry with its Detox campaign in 2012, we saw a great opportunity to finally get things moving across the industry and develop alternatives for chemicals of concern. As a single medium-sized brand, we didn’t have enough influence with the material manufacturers until then,” said Antje von Dewitz, Vaude’s managing director in retrospect.
Greenpeace’s demands focused on the elimination of polyfluorinated and perfluorinated chemicals, known as fluorocarbon, or PFCs, which are used on the one hand to manufacture membranes that make textiles waterproof and, at the same time, breathable, and on the other hand, are applied to the outer material of rain products to make them permanently water-repellent.
Vaude has not used PFCs in membranes since 2011. So the biggest challenge was to provide the outer fabrics for weather protection clothing with a durable PFC-free water-repellent finish, a task that Vaude managed to achieve. Vaude openly admits that it had to resort to a PFC-containing finish for two weather protection jackets and pants in its 2020 winter collection because the desired water-repellent property could not be achieved with the PFC-free versions. This was a setback that shows how complex and challenging the switch to pollutant-free chemicals still is. Nevertheless, starting in 2021, the entire Vaude collection will feature the PFC-free Eco Finish.
PFCs are just one of eleven substance groups that Vaude is focusing on. The outdoor brand has already completely eliminated seven of these groups. For the remaining four, the brand is working at full speed on substitution – and is confident it will achieve its goals. To ensure compliance with the limits and regulations, the brand works with the Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL). “100 percent of our main suppliers have signed our MRSL and thus committed to complying with our requirements, which is checked via regular effluent tests,” explains Bettina Roth, head of quality management. As a “friend” of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) association, Vaude adheres to its guidelines for testing wastewater and sewage sludge in textile production.
As a signatory of the Greenpeace Detox Commitment, Vaude is not only committed to eliminating harmful chemicals, but also to developing innovative business models for more sustainable consumption. Since then, many measures have been launched to help keep the ecological footprint of products as small as possible, including the Vaude eBay Upcycling Store, the iRentit shareconomy platform launched in 2017, and the in-house repair workshop and its cooperation with the online platform iFixit and repair cafés. Through the Vaude Academy for Sustainable Business, founded in May 2020, the successful sustainability pioneer shares its experience and expertise with interested companies, organizations and educational institutions.