ethical adventure gear – RAB respond

Following our recent article on transparency (or lack of it) in adventure gear production, we wrote to RAB to see what they had to say. Check out this long and reasoned response we got almost immediately. Fair play to RAB, good to see that kind of communication, and a clear commitment to future improvement.

Hi Ed,

Many thanks for your email. Sustainability is something that we are keen to focus on and are seeking advice from experts in the field of green issues.

This is something that we are taking very seriously but not something that we are going to rush and get wrong. We are currently investigating the use of alternative eco fibres and these will start to appear in the Rab range next Autumn/Winter. The Photon Hoody and other products will be using this particular fill. We are also looking into Blue Sign standards amongst other.

It is critical for the Rab brand that we also live up to our hard earned reputation for providing durable kit and we are currently putting lots of effort into ensuring the best ways of balancing longevity, sustainability and affordability. Many alternative eco fabrics are made from polyester that isnt as stable as nylon fabrics and this means that they are not as hard wearing or durable. Are people happy to pay more for less…i.e. products that dont last as long?

Our design team are all extremely eco aware and keen to instil this in their practices, making changes where possible and that dont compromise on performance.

Rab is renowned for producing kit that not only works but lasts a very long time. We have sleeping bags sent to us that are 25+ years old and that the owner cant bear to part with. We provide a care and repair service and can even re-fill/condition the bags. We also receive garments (some of an equal age to the bags!) for care and repair…which are sent to us by loyal Rab customers who need a new zip or repair/re-proof to their faithful piece of kit . Good gear also needs to be cared for and we are keen to educate people in this area and will do so through staff training and our also our Rab new website due to launch at the end of this year

Im sure that you are aware that the word recycled does not necessarily mean that a product is more environmentally friendly. Did you also know that there is some amount of concern about the use of bamboo and other farmed materials in products, their production processes as well as the exploitation of labour in making the products? ED – yes, check out our research here.

As far as factory conditions go, we check all of our factories for standards and working conditions. If they dont come up to scratch we find alternative manufacturers. Our factories are modern and clean and would have put our old Sheffield factory to shame! We sadly dont yet have the technology in this country to produce modern looking products at a price the consumer is prepared to pay.

As regards our carbon footprint we are doing what we can. We use European ethically sourced down to fill our sleeping bags and top end jackets. These are hand filled in Derbyshire leading to less cargo from the Far East and ensuring that our down fillers (some who have worked for the company for 25+ years) are fully employed. The linings for some of our jackets are sourced from textile mills in the UK and while this we recognise is far from a perfect carbon footprint, it is at least ensuring continued employment and business for a well established UK company in the dwindling UK textile industry and shows our commitment to quality performance fabrics.

None of this is simple and we are adamant that we want to get things right. I agree that more transparency is key and as I say, we are working on this and very aware of our responsibilities. Certainly there are no clear cut answers and we are keen not to make sweeping statements that we cant back up. We are not fearful of transparency but many people are very quick to criticise. Therefore, getting things right is really important to us.

The reason that we have no information on our website is due to the fact that we are in the process of building another and mid 2011 our green policy will become more apparent. Our current website is impossible to update but the new one will be much better.

We also give back to rural communities in places such as Nepal and Pakistan…sometimes in the form of warm clothing or Tee shirts for children but also insulation gear for medics doing great work in remote places and also local Sherpas.Some photos on facebook here.

We also provide gear for people who are doing fantastic work for charities/scientific research that need gear they can trust. Example is this expedition.

I hope this helps and answers your questions. Were very interested in any of your research that might be of help to us.

Im pleased to hear that your Rab VR Pull-on is one of your favourite pieces of kit!

Kindest regards