Sustainability is a priority for many today. For Fjällräven it’s been a priority since 1960. But what exactly is it?. Christiane Dolva Törnberg, Head of Sustainability at Fjällräven, explains it well when she says “sustainable development is when we develop a system where we can fulfil our needs today without compromising or hurting future generations ability to fulfil their needs.”
What does sustainability mean at Fjällräven?
Applying that to the Fjällräven world means that we want to develop equipment that enables people to spend time in nature without compromising the ability for future generations to be able to do enjoy nature in the same way.
It’s a balancing act that cannot be underestimated and, when done right, influences all the parts of the company’s operations - from the drawing board to what happens to the products at the end of their life. All processes are strongly affected by choices made from a sustainable perspective, choices that are better environmentally, socially and considers the wellbeing of the people involved. At Fjällräven sustainability isn’t treated like a separate project, it is at the core of everything that we do.
"At Fjällräven sustainability isn't treated as a separate project, it is at the core of everything that we do." - Christiane Dolva Törnberg, Head of Sustainability at Fjällräven.
“It is important to consider education, both of ourselves, and our customers about what sustainability can encompass,” says Christiane, “It is a very broad concept that has many applications from many angles.”
What is considered to ensure sustainability in Fjällräven products?
One of the most important things that Christiane and Fjällräven works towards is to make sure all products last for as long as possible. All of our products are always made with durability and timelessness in mind.
“Everything we do has an undeniable impact. We need to make sure that impact is put to the best possible use.“ Our products should be made so that you are able to, and want to keep using it for as long as possible. Both in terms of look and design - it should be timeless - and subsequently foster an emotional connection that makes you want to wear and keep that product. Living this philosophy, Christiane wears a jacket passed down to her by her Grandma, a timeless Fjällräven piece that functions just as well and looks just as good today as it did the first day of its life.
Products are also designed to be easy to repair and we offer waxing stations in outdoor shops across Europe. Adding an extra layer of Greenland Wax impregnation to your gear adds extra resistance to both wear and weather and in fact, is something you can do yourself at home. We have also created an extensive care and repair guide to give you the know-how to fix your own kit, which you can read more about here.
How else is sustainable thinking present in Fjällräven's operation?
The aspect of inspiring people to walk with nature is intrinsically linked to our sustainability efforts as well, perhaps not so obvious at first site. For example Fjällräven Classic - a yearly event in eight (so far) locations around the world, with the purpose of getting more people to discover life in the outdoors. What essentially started with Åke Nordin, the founder of Fjällräven, inviting groups of people to experience the outdoors with his new functional, durable clothes and equipment in the 70’s, stayed with us, developed and grew to become the first Fjällräven Classic event in Sweden 2005.
Since then, the interest for trekking expedition style – carrying your own equipment, setting up your own tent, cooking your own food and walking at your own pace, together with people just like you – has spread steadily across the world. And the link to sustainability? As Christiane says “we know that the more time people spend in nature, the more we care about protecting it and Fjällräven Classic is yet another way for us to try to make a difference.”
“We know that the more time people spend in nature, the more we care about protecting it and Fjällräven Classic is yet another way for us to try to make a difference.” - Christiane Dolva Törnberg, Head of Sustainability at Fjällräven.
In 2019 Fjällräven joined the UN Sustainable Fashion Charter for Climate Change. “By signing the UN Climate Change Charter, we want to contribute to accelerating the fight against climate change, show our commitment and share our knowledge within the industry.” The climate actions needed in the coming years are massive, and we are happy to be able to continue our efforts in this area in collaboration with the entire industry.
Apart from scrutinizing every part of our own processes in search for improvements, we have created the global Arctic Fox Initiative. The Arctic Fox Initiative was originally born out of a decade of supporting research on our namesake the arctic fox in cooperation with Stockholm University. Christiane adds “we still support the vital fieldwork by funding a new doctorate position to continue researching the habitat of Arctic Foxes but it was time to look past our borders” and we have now expanded the Arctic Fox Initiative into a global fund to support great ideas to preserve the environment, or encourage people to get out in nature, across the world. To read more about how and why we launched the Arctic Fox Initiative click here.
What role does innovation play in the future of sustainability?
When it comes to sustainability there is a tendency to think it’s all about minimising and being restrictive towards the use of resources. But the reality is that there is a lot spurred on by the efforts to be more sustainable as a company, as an industry and as a society.
When we first started to look into PFC-free impregnation, for example, to use with our Keb Eco-Shell Jackets and Trousers there was not a lot of choice. But we eventually got there, and today all of Fjällräven’s fabrics are treated with PFC-free impregnation. It’s the same story with our woolen products where we are now using recycled wool, recovered wool and traceable wool. There is still a long way to go, and many areas where we can do a lot more, but we are moving in the right direction. Even if it may be slower than we would like to sometimes.
An example of the rewards of putting in an extra effort comes when we for example in 2014 were able to launch the Fjällräven Down Promise. This means that all Fjällräven down is 100% fully traceable and produced with the birds’ well-being as our highest priority, together with high-quality standards, as for everything we do. It’s a long, and sometimes undulating road, but we are slowly achieving what we have set out to do.
There are many more concrete examples where sustainability goals are pushing forward innovation in materials and production processes at Fjällräven. As Christiane says “Sustainability is definitely not only about minimising the impact it is also about maximising the potential for innovation.” Right now we are looking at how to maximize that potential even in our business models. Perhaps we can twist and turn that to still inspire people to live an outdoor life using durable, functional products but potentially in different ways that are even more sustainable. When it comes to sustainability there will never be a time when we cannot improve. Christiane adds to this thought “the era of sustainability connected to innovation and business development is here to stay.” So we can expect to see a lot more of how sustainability will drive business and innovations moving forward."
For Christiane she “found home at Fjällräven when combining my love of being out in nature with my love of reducing our impact on nature, people and animals.” And that sums up exactly what we will keep working to do. Because there is never a time when we can stop improving.