Sustainability at Edelrid: Inside/Out Episode 3


from the beginning of way my rack we’ve
been asking climbing companies about their efforts to reduce environmental
impact the universal response is that technical performance is the number-one
priority which leaves little room for sustainability improvements but for the
companies that are attempting to reduce their footprint the typical approach is
to install solar panels recycle and possibly upcycle waste materials. These are important efforts but we find that it’s rare for a company to fully
integrate their environmental efforts into their gear development process or
to fully document the extent of their efforts, but Edelrid is an exception, they
have numbers and spreadsheets and presentations detailing massive
reductions in the environmental footprint of their products. So we sat down with them to find out what’s motivating them to make these efforts. You want to encourage people or give them the tools to go outdoors but on the same side I want to protect the environment. We are doing it out of our
heart because we think it’s the right approach and the right way. We are committed to the road and therefore we walk the road. Concerning new products this is a big aspect what makes Edelrid unique We don’t have the the product and then think like how can we make it last
longer This is something that should be in consideration already at the
beginning of every development. But ultimately Edelrid is a manufacturer of gear in an industry that is hyper focused on product performance and when talking about gear development there is a general assumption that improving
sustainability inevitably leads to a decrease in technical performance I think is something natural in an industry that you want to develop the
technology so a lot of the things is trying to get lighter trying to get
better and functionality also comes a lot of the times with the downside that it doesn’t last that long which means then of course that you have to buy more
of this stuff so you produce more waste like more products that end up being
replaced let’s take ropes for example and you want to get lighter and thinner and of course one direction would be
not making lighter and thinner ropes but we want to do this as well so this is the trade off where we have to think about how’s this one side possible with the
best outcome for the other side sometimes the technology that creates
the biggest performance improvements also has the largest negative
environmental impact for climbing ropes the water repellent treatments needed to
achieve the UIAA dry rope standard typically use toxic and bio accumulating
chemicals until now no one has been able to develop an effective dry treatment that lasts a long time but isn’t based on highly
toxic long-chain fluorocarbons I mean we will launch now the first fluorocarbon free UIAA dry treated rope but already knowing that under certain
circumstances the durability of how long the water repellency holds will not be as good as with the fluorocarbons of c6 the important thing is that it can be
a more durable rope than a non-treated rope but having the feature of c0 which
is super interesting for us and we are excited to move into this direction but improving sustainability doesn’t always come with a performance cost and a
Edelrid has been particularly innovative in developing products that combine both
a technical benefit and a reduction in footprint We’re trying to go a different
way regarding the sustainability on the metal side so that we want to make our
products last as long as possible which means that you don’t have to replace
them so you create a little bit less waste and this is where we are trying to
incorporate steel a lot, in an industry where aluminium takes a huge part of
metal parts one of our first concepts where we started this was with our belay
devices they’re all made from steel so they’re basically indestructible and the
bulletproof is another step in this direction where we’re trying to combine the steel advantages of lasting longer with the lightness of aluminium The products themselves are only part of the story for a company to reduce their
environmental impact it’s also necessary to improve upon the entire
infrastructure of the company EMAS is a standard which described
all ecological efforts in the total scope it describes how much energy
we use for heating in the company and what efforts we do to reduce it it describes our solar panels, it describes even the mileage gasoline our reps are
using and we need to prove year by year that we improve Collecting these datas
over five six years this is the the full scope of the picture and not a
particular product picked out to be presented from the marketing side Edelrid has put significant effort into reducing their footprint but no one is
perfect At this stage the conversation about sustainability is a conversation
about improvement not perfection We work in order to be better basically we are
kind of on the way to improve our thing but it’s nothing to go out and said we
are the best I mean we can improve day by day so it’s a never ending story We’re also starting to work in this other brands together and other
institutions to maybe establish also a standard in on this metal side but this
is like, yeah in the beginning so it’s always a long way to get all those
different interest groups together Systematically reducing one’s
environmental footprint is a huge undertaking for a manufacturer like Edelrid it’s critical to have partnerships that give them visibility into their
entire supply chain The motivation to work with bluesign came up when I was brand manager for Vaude brand and Edelrid brand and obviously Vaude is
pushing into being the most environmental friendly company of Europe The partnership with bluesign was crucial to achieve this goal As you know there are
other standards out there but bluesign somehow have even higher standard and is outstanding in the way how they do it and so we were strategically partnering up
with them and then on the other hand a motivation because we created pressure
out there that big companies like Mammut or even Petzl joined the bluesign and
followed the step because deep in their hearts they were believing that’s
the right thing even so effort they need to put in is extreme Coming from outside the manufacturing process it can be tough to understand
what is so extremely difficult about using sustainable materials You need to do it along all production starting with the spinning process so basically we
needed to convince our sub suppliers on the raw material and dying in order to
join this project and we try to partner up with the suppliers in a stronger way
and yeah basically paid their certification but bluesign could approach
this information in order to judge if the process if it’s clean enough for them
in order to achieve the bluesign standard and that there was a tricky
part because it’s not about us it’s about the whole thing
and if it is about the whole thing you need to get the other people in and
this was challenging But the material sourcing is only the beginning of the product lifecycle there are many other steps in the process for waste materials
to be reclaimed The life of a rope never ends for example taking a rope which is
not long enough to be a climbing rope anymore so with this kind of products we
design something like bowls or skipping ropes or dog leashes other than that
there’s also kind of waste of the production which we try to first of all
reduce with the concept of processes in the production but secondly down-cycle in a way that we are working on a program in which a recycler grinds them and then
make polyamide out for injection molding for example and we have some
products coming up which are then made out of the down-cycled material which is
great also because then what have been a part of a rope will be a
different product And even after all of the work it took to make their ropes
blue sign approved products there are still many challenges Our supply chain
is build up with on the rope for example only with two raw material suppliers but
if you go down the road and see other products like harnesses for example where as
like 25 different materials in which out of 25 supply chains it’s getting
impossible to achieve in a fast way so then there’s another
challenge that the harnesses for example will be sold on a incredible low price
where margin as well as there is not the potential to invest such a lot of money
because the margin is so low if you imagine a good harness can be bought in
between 55 and 60 75 euros I mean this shirt is maybe 50 and this is 3 4 5
stitching minutes while on the harness if we talk about 35 minutes to 2 hours and
this is the total disbalance there’s a lot of people saying yeah I love the
mountains and I will do everything but in the end if they need to spend 10
bucks more a lot of people will not do it We need to have an a philosophy and
stand behind it and be most transparent in how we do it in order to gain the
trust of the consumer but you need to understand that especially the climber
the dirtbag climbers being said that maybe don’t care because he wants a rope
to climb on and he do not necessarily want to ecologic friendly
rope We were curious if there retailers are specifically choosing to stock
products that have an environmental performance benefit The reality is that not really the hardcore reality is not they want to move the product off the
shelf and they don’t have the effort to educate the floor staff in a wide way in order to do so the efforts are really tough and
usually the product nowadays in Europe at least are still mostly sell with the
sales arguments and the performance rather than and ecological features obviously there’s still plenty of
challenges to getting lower impact products on the market one huge barrier
is that the retailer’s aren’t yet convinced that their customers actually
want them so we as their customers can start by asking for these products we
can also support the brands that share their sustainability reports and use
third-party certifications like bluesign or the Fair Labor Association
unfortunately many companies are still afraid to share what they are doing for
fear that their customers will criticize them for what they are not yet
doing so to combat the lack of transparency we can collectively
encourage all brands to move in the right direction and support those
efforts but rest assured as we begin to show the brands and the retailers that
we care where the gear comes from and how it’s made that they are listening

3 thoughts on “Sustainability at Edelrid: Inside/Out Episode 3

  1. I have 2 Edelrid Swift Pro rope, and to be honest, when I bought them, it wasn't because they were bluesign or ecological, I did not even knew it was a possibility. They were just the best rope for my needs.
    With every rope from Edelrid they provide some documentation on how the rope was created, bluesign process, how to recycle previous rope, etc. This made me aware of the ecological side and this video a little bit more.
    I will still be looking for the best gear for my specific needs, but ecological aspect will be a close second to the technical one, and yes, I will be ready to pay a bit more for them to be eco-friendly.

    Maybe WMR could add some filter or create a blog post about eco gear.
    In any case big kudos for Edelrid for doing what they do, the more I learn about them, the more I like this company.

  2. Take's quality marketing to change buying habits and frankly, no climbing manufacturer is investing big $$ marketing budgets on eco friendly messaging…..
    Patagonia as we all know executes this type of branding flawlessly. I bet Edelrids primary focus is on educating reps for pitching eco friendly benefits and that's a problem because customer journeys start online (aka outdoor gear lab etc) these days.
    A better go to market strategy would be a video content strategy supported by Tommy Caldwell driving eco friendly products.

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