Today, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (USPIRG Education Fund) delivered 48,000 petition signatures to Columbia Sportswear CEO, calling for the phase out of toxic PFAS from the company’s supply chain.
PFAS are a class of more than 12,000 toxic chemicals, known for their extensive pollution of the nation’s drinking water sources, accumulation in wildlife and threat to public health. Despite their threat, PFAS are used extensively in the outdoor apparel industry – in coatings and membranes - to make clothes water and stain resistant.
While several outdoor apparel companies based in the United States and Europe – including Patagonia, L.L. Bean and Jack Wolfskin have either already eliminated or committed to a time-bound phase out of the chemicals, Columbia Sportswear has yet to take similar action.
The company received a grade of F in a recent scorecard published by NRDC, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Fashion FWD for its weak action on PFAS.
At Columbia Sportswear’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders last month, CEO Tim Boyle noted that the company has ‘been focused on reducing our use of PFAS and ultimately phasing them out.’ To date, however, Columbia Sportswear has yet to establish a date for phase out.
A time-bound commitment is essential to assure company consumers and the public at large that the company will act decisively and quickly to protect public health in the face of the large body of evidence that PFAS poses a significant threat to people and the planet.
Continued use of PFAS in the company’s supply chain directly contravenes Columbia Sportswear’s vision of promoting sustainability and clean water supplies around the globe. It also contravenes the company’s vision for sustainability, exacerbates investor risk, and places Columbia behind numerous competitors who have made commitments to phase out all PFAS use from their products and supply chains.
Furthermore, proposed restrictions on PFAS use in apparel in the United States and in Europe could leave the company behind the rapidly evolving legal landscape around the uses of these chemicals.
To do its part in protecting the public from the dangers of PFAS and protect its own reputation and consumers, Columbia Sportswear should immediately announce a timeline for phase out of these toxic chemicals.