Arc’teryx announces new environmental targets

Despite facing some disruption due to the pandemic, the outerwear brand commits to the long-term importance of climate action.

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on Wednesday, outerwear brand Arc’teryx has announced two science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

For the company’s headquarters, Canadian production facility, global retail stores and supply chain, Arc’teryx’s objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 65% by 2030.

Arc’teryx says these environmental initiatives haven’t changed due to the pandemic, which has shifted priorities at many companies away from environmental plans, either by moving investment to other areas of the company or because single-used packaging and increased shipping are friendlier to current public health orders.

Katie Wilson, senior manager of social and environmental sustainability at Arc’teryx, says the company has been undertaking an “exhaustive and intensive” data-gathering exercise since last year on how much carbon it produces and areas where emissions could be improved – including materials development, product design and supply chain – and the staff spearheading these projects have remained focused on their tasks.

“We know that, despite all this chaos right now, going forward, eventually the smoke is going to clear and the climate emergency is going to be waiting for us on the other side,” Wilson says. “My team, in particular, we want to keep gunning hard so that when the dust settles, we have a very clear target that we’re already moving towards, and we don’t have to start from scratch.”

There have been some pandemic-related impacts at Arc’teryx, many of which have also been faced by other companies. These include the majority of its retail stores being closed and the disruption that comes with factories being closed and staff being instructed to stay home, though the company has found ways to adjust “on the fly,” especially when it comes to keeping its staff busy. Wilson says staff are not currently making regular Arc’teryx products – such as shell jackets and daypacks – at the company’s New Westminster facility. A smaller crew of people are manufacturing surgical gowns for local healthcare workers in B.C.

Wilson notes how in some regions where Arc’teryx is present, there have been complete shutdowns of facilities. In other areas, like China, she says they’re starting to see a re-emergence of production.

To achieve its science-based targets Arc’teryx has set for 2030 and deliver emissions reductions, the brand will implement a four-tiered strategic approach: lower-impact materials and product design, renewable energy projects, energy efficiency and circular business models.

For lower impact materials, Wilson notes, it’s about identifying less carbon-intensive methods of producing materials, to suit a particular clothing performance requirement, such as using a recycled version of a material.

For product design, the emphasis is on continuing to build a durable product that can be used longer and spreads the impact of carbon emissions out over a lifetime.

Durability and performance have been two of Arc’teryx’s brand pillars as a company, and approaching the science of climate change through those gives the company an opportunity to have a relevant voice in the conversation.

“I don’t know how many thousands of scientists have stated that climate is urgent and important, and that everybody needs to get on board and do their part. I think that’s us responding,” she says. “We’re trying to find a way to make sure that we do our part and we do it authentically, in a way that’s true to us.”