This week W.L. Gore announced the elimination of PFCs from its consumer laminates, the kind found in your ski jacket, corresponding to about 85 percent of all products produced (jackets, shoes, gloves, accessories), by 2020. Currently that number is at 70 percent.
As part of an aggressive long-term sustainability program from Gore Fabrics Division, the fabric and laminate supplier also announced Bluesign approval for 85 percent of consumer garments, and OEKO-TEX certification for 100 percent of consumer garment products by 2020, complementing its existing “chemicals management program.”
To achieve these goals Gore will undertake an innovation program working with its suppliers to eliminate PFCs in the processing and manufacturing of PTFE, the base material in Gore’s famed waterproof-breathable membrane. Gore Fabrics said its plan to eliminate certain PFCs will reduce the environmental footprint throughout the products’ life cycle.
Inside a Gore testing lab. Photo by Aaron Bible.
Gore also entered into conversations with Greenpeace regarding the use of PFCs in the outdoor apparel industry. As an initial outcome, Greenpeace and Gore have come to a mutual understanding on the distinct properties of materials that constitute a “PFC of Environmental Concern.”
Gore is working toward the elimination of these PFCs from its Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatments, common in almost every outdoor brand, and membrane manufacturing processes, as a two-step initiative:
• First, by the end of 2020, Gore Fabrics will eliminate PFCs of Environmental Concern from its consumer laminate shipments corresponding to approximately 85 percent of product units in the market. This includes jackets, shoes, gloves and accessories.
• Between 2021 and 2023, Gore Fabrics will remove PFCs of Environmental Concern from the remaining consumer fabrics laminates while continuing to deliver products that meet performance specifications relevant to end use. In other words, that they are still durable and 100-percent waterproof and breathable.
The first products with a DWR treatment free of PFCs are targeted for availability in Fall 2018, using an inert polymer, insoluble in water, that does not degrade to become a source of harmful PFCs. Gore said it’s pursuing multiple technical solutions at the same time, including the development of fluorinated and non-fluorinated chemistries.
“Gore continuously strives to deliver outdoor products with the optimal combination of technical performance and sustainability,” said Christian Langer of Gore Fabrics’ Divisional Leadership Team. “By adopting the ambitious goal to eliminate PFCs of Environmental Concern from all of our consumer fabrics products, we are underlining our decades-long commitment to continuously improve the environmental profile of our products. Together with our suppliers, we intend to achieve our goal through an aggressive innovation program that will entail the development of new DWR treatments and membrane materials.”
The company has been leveraging independent third-party validation for more than 20 years as part of a life-cycle approach to evaluating the environmental impact of its products.
Gore-Tex in its natural element in Telluride, Colorado. Photo by Jasmine Bible
In an effort of further transparency in chemical management reporting within the outdoor industry, Gore Fabrics Division said it will disclose its progress and its assessment methods and results toward more sustainable chemistry.
Founded in 1958, W. L. Gore & Associates is a global materials science company dealing in technical problem solving for the outdoor, medical, aerospace, pharmaceutical and mobile electronics markets, and generates annual revenues that exceed $3 billion. More information about Gore Fabrics sustainability strategy and goals is available at www.gore-tex.com/pfcgoal.