Sew, not throw away.
For a business that relies on consumption as a vehicle for revenue growth, such a directive to customers might appear counterintuitive, even fiscally damaging. Not for Mammut, however.
The mountaineering outfitter, which avers that the longer a product lasts, the smaller its environmental footprint, repairs some 15,000 pieces of clothing and equipment at its headquarters in Switzerland and Germany each year, sometimes at zero cost to the consumer.
“We have always stood for high-quality, durable products. Nevertheless, damage can never be completely ruled out, whether it’s down to intensive use, a fault in the material or a mishap,” Mammut wrote in a blog post in late February. “But it’s by no means a reason to dispose of the product straightaway: our in-house repair department is there to help.”
It’s true that extending the life of a garment stands the planet in better stead than sending it to a landfill or incinerator. Keeping a piece of clothing in rotation for an extra three months can reduce its carbon, waste and water footprints by 5 percent to 10 percent, according to the Waste & Resources Action Program, a U.K. environmental nonprofit.
“Let’s say for the sake of simplicity that this concerns only hardshell jackets that would otherwise be disposed of,” Mammut explained. “The work completed in the repair workshop then annually saves almost 375,000 kilograms of [carbon dioxide]-equivalent and 3 million liters of water.”
The repair process typically begins after a customer drops off a defective item at a Mammut retail store. The product is forwarded to a repair workshop, where a host of sewing machines, ironing stations and special equipment lie waiting to be pressed into service. A faulty zipper with partially melted teeth might be whisked away by a repair professional, then replaced with a new one, along with an underlay that prevents rain from getting in. Strips of waterproofing tape might be welded in as an extra protective measure. The work is neither quick nor dirty: Even a relatively simple task such as this can take between three to four hours to complete, Mammut said. Others could take longer.
“Replacing a zipper is one of the most common repairs carried out,” the company noted. “But pretty tricky projects often find their way onto our seamstresses’ workshop counters, too. Customers are frequently surprised that their damaged favorite items can be repaired after all.”
Winter, the brand notes, is peak season for repairs. “Because of this, we recommend that you check your ski clothing before packing it away for the summer and send it in for repair if necessary,” Mammut said. “That way, everything is ready to go when the first snow of the new season starts to fall.”
Besides saving clothing from the landfill, Mammut also looks at the bigger picture. As a founding member of Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, a milestone agreement to collectively achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the outdoor company says it is committed to addressing a full slate of issues, including decarbonizing the production phase, selecting climate-friendly materials, improving consumer dialogue and exploring circular business models.
“Climate change is one of the biggest and most urgent challenges of our times,” Peter Hollenstein, corporate responsibility manager at Mammut, said in December. “Our glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising and entire regions are drying out. To mitigate global warming and substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change every country, every industry, every company and every individual needs to contribute. By stepping forward and proactively assuming its responsibility, Mammut hopes to inspire others to follow suit.”
Some of its own efforts will bear fruit soon. Mammut has pledged to source 95 percent of its production materials from recycling and to use “exclusively” certified organic cotton by 2023.
Part of the Conzzetta Group, the brand generated a net revenue of 111.1 million Swiss Francs ($109.8 million) in the first half of 2018, reporting double-digit growth in Europe and Asia.