Sustainability Issues and Strategies in the Outdoor Apparel Brand Industry

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Other Business
Other Environmental Sciences
Sales and Merchandising
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Butow, John

Going green has seeped into the nation’s consumer consciousness. And while some industries have received more attention than others, research has shown that even for consumers with knowledge of environmental impacts resulting from apparel production and manufacture, purchasing green over conventional apparel has not historically been a concern for many consumers. This paper theorizes that the outdoor apparel industry, with their history of championing environmental conservation efforts can serve as an industry leader by implementing product sustainability efforts across their supply chain to influence other apparel brands and actors within the textile supply chain to employ greener practices. This paper explores that question by researching (1) the potential of whether the outdoor recreationalist, the main consumer of outdoor brands’ products, will be receptive to purchasing green apparel and the potential for a higher price tag, (2) environmental impacts associated with apparel life cycle, (3) product sustainability best practices as advocated by industry trade associations, and (4) a benchmark of product sustainability practices implemented by several outdoor brands as identified by publicly available literature. A review of the environmental impacts associated with apparel across the entire product life cycle revealed that impacts from the production and processing and apparel consumer use stage dwarf those of transportation and product end-of-life. An additional comparison of environmental impacts from specific fiber types revealed that wool was the most sustainable fiber among those examined. Lastly, the review of apparel product sustainability practices found, at an approximate result of two to one, that the majority of outdoor brands did not exhibit or at least advertise their efforts for production of sustainable apparel and that only five (5) of the fourteen (14) brands reviewed publicly exhibited a comprehensive sustainability strategy. However, the study did reveal some brands that exhibited best practices for implementation of sustainable apparel measures and that these brands through their actions were already serving as advocates within the broader apparel industry for adoption of product sustainability measures.

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