The Fjällräven Way - Swedish Style & Sustainability
Founded in a small Swedish town over 50 years ago, Fjällräven have always had an unchanging mission: to make it easier for everyone to get out there and enjoy the outdoors. With this mission comes a commitment to protecting nature to ensure that this generation, and future generations, can enjoy nature as we have.
We caught up with Ralph White, the Managing Director of Fjällräven in the UK, to find out more about the great work that Fjällräven are doing to protect our planet.
You're known for producing durable pieces of outdoor kit. How do you improve the longevity of your products and why is this so important to you?
Longevity is part of our corporate DNA. The longer a product lives, the smaller its environmental footprint. We design products to be functional, durable and timeless. The durability relates to the choice of materials. High quality and material longevity are always a priority. The other aspect of this is the timelessness and emotional longevity. Our designers always strive to ensure that our products are designed in such a way that makes the user want to use, care for and keep the products for a very long time.
As a company, animal welfare is important you. What are you doing to ensure that you don’t cause animals any harm?
Animal welfare is part of our Code of Conduct for suppliers. We take full control and we also regularly make on-site visits. Our aim is to have full traceability and control of sourcing of any animal derived materials so that we can strive to ensure and implement animal welfare criteria all the way down to the farmer level. For our down products we have produced a video on how we do this called Our Down Promise. We are also taking measures with regards to wool and best practice in animal husbandry and have now opened our own sheep farm in the north of Sweden, not necessarily to be self-sufficient but to learn from our first hand experiences.
You’re doing lots of conservation work for the arctic fox. Why this particular animal?
It is our “heraldic animal”. “Fjällräven” in Swedish means Arctic Fox. It is a precious animal in the Nordic areas and was (and still is) on the brink of extinction in Norway and in Sweden. In 1928 there were still more than 10,000 animals in Sweden, two years later there were only 150 left. Today we are close to 200 but still, we need to understand why the population – despite all the protection efforts – did not recover. The Arctic foxes today are threatened by environmental pollution and degradation, climate change and the intrusion of the red fox, who is spreading into the Arctic fox endemic regions and sees them as prey.
Can you explain a bit about the ‘compass’ that guides you as a brand?
We have chosen the compass as a guidance tool as it makes a lot of sense for us – as an outdoor company – to approach sustainability and our business approach holistically. The compass guides us in all decision making. For every decision we make we need to take into account all four cardinal directions.
N – stands for Nature, our love and passion for nature but also for our environmental efforts to protect nature and reduce the impact our business makes. Examples are: our design guidelines where we make choices about the materials used (such as organic cotton, recycled polyester), our recycled/recycling programme (like “Re-Kånken”).
E – stands for Economy, the responsible and sustainable way how we earn money and the types of mutually beneficial relationships we foster with our suppliers and customers.
S – stands for Society, the responsibility we have and take when operating abroad and the pro-active measures taken to improve lives of those who work for us.
W – stands for Well-being: of staff, of the workers in our contracted factories and of animals.
“We love Fjällräven’s sustainability message and commitment to working in a responsible way. Not only this, but their clothing combines functionality and durability with timeless designs and premium fabrics. Everything they make really is made to last.”
– Samantha Crouch, Clothing Buyer for Cotswold Outdoor
How do you promote wellbeing within your team?
There are many ways we do this. Staff members are actively supported to enjoy and engage in outdoor activities. We also enable people to grow and develop in our company, through training for example. With regards to the wellbeing of supplier’s workers we work closely with the Fair Labour Association (FLA) and encourage and engage with our suppliers to improve the living and working conditions of their staff.
You’ve been PFC-free since 2015. Why did you decide to make that change?
When it comes to the use of chemicals, we apply the precautionary principle. Looking at our collections, we found that it was well within our reach to phase out the use of PFC in the impregnation. We also developed our new shell garments (Eco-Shell) with PFC free impregnation. If there is any potentially hazardous chemicals or groups of substances that we can replace with other alternatives, we will always try to choose the less harmful options.
Does being a successful, well-established company make it more difficult to prioritise sustainability?
To prioritise sustainability is not something we chose to do just because it is nice to have. It is a “must”, and it is an integrated part of our long-term business development. However, you will always face difficulties in setting some objectives and achieving goals, and these you need to thoroughly analyse and address. So it is neither easier nor harder it is just a question of moving consistently on the path to a more sustainable world and always being prepared to actively contribute.
How do you ensure that the clothing & kit that you make is created in a responsible and sustainable way?
We address sustainability holistically. This means we have to think sustainability even before we start designing a product and consider what will be its role and what happens when it comes to the end of its lifespan. This is actually a big and conscious part of our design guidelines. It means we take long-term sustainability considerations in design, material choice, production, transportation and distribution, sales, the user phase and end of use (We use the Higg index). We advise the consumer how to treat our products to make them last longer and so that the care of them (such as reproofing) has no major negative impact on the environment. To find the right tools and information to ensure that everyone working within our organization can take informed and conscious choices is also a big objective for us. It is all about having a decently calibrated compass. After all, we want to leave our world in a better shape than we found it. And so the journey continues…
Ralph White, Managing Director of Fjällräven in the UK
Founded in 1960, Fjällräven have worked for over fifty years to craft innovative, functional items of clothing and kit designed to allow more people to enjoy the great outdoors. Popular with outdoor enthusiasts worldwide, every piece that they sell has been put to the test, to support you when it matters the most.