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Eddie Bauer’s Sustainability Goals: Low-Impact Materials, Curbing Carbon Emissions

Eddie Bauer unveiled its roadmap to reduce its environmental impact.

The heritage American outdoor brand, which Authentic Brands Group purchased as part of its Sparc portfolio in June, detailed plans switch to lower-impact material inputs, address Scope 1 emissions, focus on circular programs including rental and resale.

Eddie Bauer developed its environmental objectives partnership with Shift Advantage. The sustainability and corporate social responsibility consultancy helped assess company stakeholders, vendors, material partners and customers to pinpoint initial commitments, which Eddie Bauer will undertake in 2022.

“The way we landed on this framework was a combination of what the organization was interested in and felt passionate about and what would have the most impact,” CEO Damien Huang told Sourcing Journal.

The company’s biggest priority—and greatest opportunity, Huang said—is in revamping the way it makes its products, with the goal of lowering the carbon impact of its materials and designing for longevity.

“We’re really focusing on the ethos of the product we make as a starting point for defining sustainability,” he added. “I think for virtually every fashion brand, almost the entirety of our resource impact—whether it’s greenhouse gas emissions or any other metric—really comes from what we make and the operational side of the business.”

Eddie Bauer will fully transition to certified organic, organic-in-conversion, or recycled cotton by 2030, and aims to reach 50 percent by 2025, with matching metrics and time frames for switching to recycled versus virgin polyesters and nylons.

Half of all rayon, modal, and lyocell fibers used in its products will be made from recycled content or agricultural waste inputs by 2025, and the remainder will be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified fiber from sustainable wood sources. Eddie Bauer aims to see 30 percent of its down and feather insulation sourced from recycled content over the next four years, and the remainder will continue to be Responsible Down Standard certified.

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“A lot of this was work that was in progress, that we really hadn’t put together in a coherent framework,” Huang said. The company is currently looking to Cotton Inc. for help sourcing organic cotton. Eddie Bauer has already made strides in replacing its virgin synthetic fibers with recycled versions, and has exclusively partnered with Lenzing for cellulosic fibers including rayon, modal and lyocell. It is actively working with Bluesign to cultivate more material partners across the board. All of its fabrications will be approved by the group’s sustainable textile standards by 2030, and it aims to reach 50 percent of that goal by 2025.

Beyond product inputs, Eddie Bauer is beginning to tackle operational carbon emissions throughout its supply chain, with the goal of measuring its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and setting targets by 2022. Huang said Scope 1 emissions, which result from energy use at the company’s offices and stores, will be the first area of focus. Eddie Bauer has committed to using renewable energy sources like sunlight, wind, small-scale hydro-electric, and geothermal heat to fully power its facilities by 2030, and it hopes to reach 80 percent of that goal in the next four years.

“We have an audit due next year, and we’ll assess what we can do given the scope of what we control,” Huang said, noting that Eddie Bauer will likely have to purchase renewable energy credits or carbon offsets to mitigate a portion of its Scope 1 impacts initially. “We don’t, in many cases, have direct control over the over the flow of electrons into our facilities.”

Scope 3 emissions, which result mostly from suppliers’ operations, are lower on the company’s list of priorities for the coming year—despite their heavy carbon impact. Huang said that assessing Eddie Bauer’s supply chain partners across the globe is a long-term goal that will “ultimately translate to partnership with vendors that are in line with this mission.” The effort will include developing and implementing a Restricted Substances List program by 2023, with the long-term goal of resolving 100 percent of failures in eradicating the substances by 2030.

Eddie Bauer has also pledged to plant 100,000 trees per year in American forests through partnerships with reforestation initiatives, and redevelop product packaging to reduce its weight and incorporate recycled plastic or paper content.

But the company is mostly “focused on the material and consumption side of the equation, because that’s where we see the biggest impact” for now, Huang said.

The brand's 2022 efforts will focus on sustainable materials and developing resale and rental channels.

“What we create that is really about versatility, utility and longevity,” he said. “If you’re making something that’s essentially disposable, it doesn’t matter what you make it from or how many carbon offsets you purchase around it—it’s the ultimate use of that item that really defines whether or not it can be considered sustainable.”

To that end, the company has already invested in consumer-facing programs to promote a circular economy. In July, Eddie Bauer partnered with outdoor equipment rental company Arrive Outdoors to offer a selection of garments and gear, from outerwear to tents and sleeping bags, for rent by weekend adventurers. The program allows renters to have items sent to homes, hotels and FedEx locations, and use them for varying fees as low as $1 per day.

In 2022, the company plans to try its hand at resale, whether that means partnering with a backend facilitator like Trove to create an on-site business, or a third-party re-commerce marketplace like ThredUp, which has recently launched programs with brands like Madewell, Crocs, Reformation and Farfetch. “Our primary goal is being able to manage the intake of a waste stream, or to recondition products so that we actually divert goods from landfill or incineration or and actually get them back into the U.S. economy,” Huang said, describing plans for new sustainable and circular initiatives as “an important facet of our totality of our brand mission.”

“The outdoors is a place of wellness and health and vitality,” he added. “We really want to connect this mission to the idea that the outdoors, both local to you and far away, should be inclusive, accessible and safe.”

“I commend the work Damien and his team have put forth over the last few years to define what sustainability means not just for Eddie Bauer, but for the entire outdoor industry,” said Sparc Group CEO Marc Miller, adding that the new roadmap could influence the rest of Sparc’s portfolio.

As a part of this rollout, Eddie Bauer will also join the Outdoor Industry Association’s Climate Action Corps, committing to measuring and reducing GHG emissions and sharing progress with industry peers annually, Miller added. The company will publish its first sustainability report in April 2022.