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Better than Most, the Outdoor Market Understands the Value of Sustainability

Few categories are quite as tuned into the importance of sustainability as the outdoor apparel market.

With a long-held connection to the environment, tied by the natural thread of consumers wearing its products outside, the outdoor performance industry has been sensitive to the need to develop eco-friendly apparel since its inception. It’s a group that knows, perhaps better than most, that initiatives must extend far beyond hollow greenwashing by a network committed to a deep respect for the earth.

At the same time, prioritizing sustainability is not a completely selfless endeavor. Consumers are increasingly demanding products that are more ethically made, spurring companies to be more transparent about where they’re sourcing from in order to remain competitive. Greater transparency can also lead to more efficient production as it provides better visibility into a company’s operations.

As such, companies like Concept III are challenging its customers to consider the ethical responsibility of addressing all means of sustainability while simultaneously fulfilling these heightened consumer expectations.

“Sustainable processes, raw materials and practices are at the core of the business model of the outdoor industry,” Chris Parkes, president of Concept III, told Sourcing Journal.

The U.S.-based developer of performance textiles is an active member of The Conservation Alliance, a consortium of companies that distributes funds to grassroots environmental organizations. Concept III also regularly promotes Bluesign membership and accountability to its mill partners, which is an independent verification system designed to trace textiles’ paths through the manufacturing process.

“For years, we’ve proudly partnered with renowned global mills, distinguished universities and beloved consumer brands to establish eco-friendly initiatives for textiles,” Parkes said. “Now, through our partnership with The Conservation Alliance, we’re better positioned to promote more environmental initiatives and develop more sustainable fabric-based innovations that further protect the lands we love. We’re proud of the work The Conservation Alliance does for the outdoors, and we’re thrilled to support their important mission.”

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“Partnering with Concept III, who share our dedication to conservation, continues to drive efforts to protect our wild places,” John Sterling, executive director of The Conservation Alliance, said. “Together we provide the much-needed funding to community-based campaigns working to protect threatened habitat and the places we recreate.”

Concept III has been sourcing and supplying textiles for leading outdoor brands since the 1980s. Thanks to this foundation, the company knows full well that maintaining sustainably minded partnerships are more than just best practices; they’re vital for any business that wishes to maintain longevity.

“We have to ensure our partners are following sustainable practices because we can’t allow our customers to believe we are compromising the focus we have on this mission,” Parkes said. “All our partners ensure that they meet the highest levels of taking the necessary steps to provide compliance in their sustainability efforts.”

Its partnership with Kingwhale, for example, is one key indicator of this. Kingwhale’s L.I.T. (Low Impact Technology) platform allows it to produce textiles that are made with sustainable targets in mind. By drilling all the way down to the basic building blocks of fabrics, L.I.T. minimizes the detrimental impact textile manufacturing has on the environment. According to the company, L.I.T. allows savings of up to 15 percent less dyestuffs and 60 percent less water vs. conventional dyeing processes.

Parkes said its customers are progressively seeking products that are more biodegradable and produced using less water. To help strengthen this commitment, it’s also paving a future that prioritizes compliance with industry standards in production and employee management and benefits. And while sustainably sourced textiles do often carry premium costs, this has yet to become a wide deterrent in the industry.

“It is generally understood that there will be a premium, small or large, for a sustainably built product, and the consumer is beginning to accept that,” he said. “But we all must remember that sometimes the intangible outweighs the tangible.”

Learn more about Concept III.