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ESG Outlook: Karen Beattie of Polartec on Accountability to Stated Goals

ESG Outlook is Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to get their take on their company’s latest environmental, social and governance initiatives and their own personal efforts toward sustainability. In this Q&A, Karen Beattie, product marketing manager of Fabric technologies and design solutions company Polartec, discusses why commitment needs to be something more than just looking good on paper.

Name: Karen Beattie

Title: Product Marketing Manager

Company: Polartec

What do you consider to be your company’s best ESG-related achievement over the last 5 years?

I would have to say our premium low-shed Polartec® Power Air™. This groundbreaking technology is the next generation of fleece, and it can be a real enabler for circularity.

On a personal note, how much do you look into a brand’s social or environmental practices before shopping? Any examples of something you did or didn’t buy because of this?

It’s definitely a constant consideration, but I can’t think of any specific examples offhand.

What is your personal philosophy on shopping and caring for your clothes?

I avoid trends and stick to classic styles and colors that never go out of style. I also make sure to find garments made of high quality so they last. Third, I avoid anything that says dry-clean-only.

How do you try to minimize the environmental impact of the clothes you buy, either on the purchasing side or end-of-use angle?

Since I’m pretty conscious about my consumerism—purchasing durable, long-lasting items in classic silhouettes—the garment turnover I experience is fairly low. The most sustainable item is the one you already own, so by that philosophy, my shopping practices are highly sustainable.

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Anything new you are doing to boost sustainability beyond the fashion industry?

Well, I do ride my bike more, and, like I said, sustainability is a part of everyday considerations.

What would you say is the biggest misconception consumers have about sustainability in fashion? And since you work in this industry, do you find yourself trying to help clarify such misconceptions?

A lot of consumers have good intentions, but just lack the proper education when it comes to understanding sustainability in the apparel industry. At Polartec, we host open panel discussions, ensure our products have environmental certifications, and provide our clients with transparency that they can pass on to their consumers.

What was your company’s biggest takeaway from the Covid crisis, in terms of operations, sustainability, and other considerations?

Polartec is able to produce products in strategic locations around the world, which allows us to supply customers locally, and in turn, solve both timing and environmental problems. This has also played a part in the pandemic, as countries endured different levels of crisis at different times.

What is your company’s latest sustainability-related initiative?

Polartec just announced the elimination of PFAS (per- and polyfluoralkyl substances) in its DWR (durable water resistant) treatments across the line of performance fabrics. We prioritized performance and longevity as we worked on the non-PFAS treatment and now have a solution that offers zero loss of durability or water repellency.

What do you consider to be the apparel industry’s biggest missed opportunity related to securing meaningful change?

The bottom line is commitment. The industry needs to work together to commit and hold themselves accountable to their stated goals. At Polartec, we don’t see those goals as a way to look good on paper, we see them as a way to continuously improve and discover ways to do things better. It truly is a commitment to understand how science enables sustainability, to dive into the end of life of garments and understand how products behave. Any step forward is a good step forward.