It’s no easy feat, but we’re here for it.
At our core, we lead with a customer-first philosophy, and our desire to evolve as a more sustainable brand embeds in who we have always been. We manufacture many of our core products locally, strive to create superior products that will last with our lifetime warranty, and drive our inspiration from Northern communities who have lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years and whose practices are rooted in sustainability. We know we need to decrease the gap between humanity and the natural world. Sustainability isn’t an abstract idea or buzzword to use flippantly; it’s our critical call to action.
Sustainability is a long game, and its achievability can often feel like climbing Everest—twice. We know we can always do more for the good of the world, and while that’s an overwhelming proposition, it’s one we commit to learning—more than ever before. In 2019, we built a new team dedicated to corporate sustainability. With that, we created a Sustainable Impact Strategy, which included our first annual Sustainability Report (published in April 2020) to hold us publicly accountable for our actions and deadlines. We’ve embraced goals that will focus on preserving the outdoors we love; we are targeting 2025 to be fully carbon-neutral. We are dissecting our product lines and supply chain processes to see how we can commit more fully to best in class sustainability initiatives.
“The brands that are the most successful in pursuing a sustainable agenda are the ones who have ingrained this thinking into every decision they make for the business,” says Gavin Thompson, VP, Corporate Citizenship at Canada Goose. “Internally, across our whole global network, everyone is really hungry to elevate our existing sustainability efforts to the next big level, and that’s exciting. We’re deeply committed to doing the work.”
January 2021 isn’t only the dawn of a new year, but it also proved to be the eclipse of change for us, too. We did something we haven’t done before, but put us on a path towards a new way of creating our products. We took one of our most iconic parkas, the Expedition Parka, and we reworked it to make it our most sustainable parka to date. You may wonder where the trepidation comes in, and frankly, it hit us on all sides. For one, the Expedition Parka is one of the principal heritage pieces of our whole collection. It belonged to and is created for the scientists at McMurdo Station in Antarctica to protect them against the world’s harshest climate. Its pedigree is deeply established, and we, along with our consumers, collectively revere it as our North Star. Beyond this, the decision to rework its fundamental core elements (from colour to fabric and materials) so we emphasized sustainability was, in a word, complicated. “The Expedition is an incredible legacy, plus it’s also one of our top-sellers across the world,” says Niamh McManus, Design Director, Product at Canada Goose. “It’s an iconic representation of our brand, so when we decided to riff off this inaugural piece as our first interpretation of a sustainable parka, we were, not surprisingly, a little cautious, but also very motivated to transform it. It was kind of a no-brainer that we would use the Expedition for this huge undertaking.”
The Standard Expedition Parka—aptly named because it helps set our new standard in creating sustainable products—is constructed from a myriad of recycled fabrics, linings, and interlinings. Revolutionizing our legacy Arctic Tech® performance fabric to now be a blend of 100 percent recycled polyester and organic cotton, plus 100 percent responsibly sourced down, the parka went through a considerable transformation, sourcing materials that would cause as little an impact as possible. The raw white colour is a result of limited chemical use with the undyed fabric (dying fabrics requires considerable energy and water usage), and it is also the first-ever Canada Goose parka to feature reclaimed fur on its adjustable hood, a direct result of our commitment to ending the purchase of new fur by 2022. Given the complex nature of building our outerwear, this made these mandates far from easy.
“We did an audit of every element that makes up the Expedition to assess how we can make the best version of these materials from a sustainability perspective,” says McManus. “And it was a huge hurdle for us, but we’re always up for the challenge. We recognized that this moment for the brand was a fascinating transition that felt like the right thing to do for the times we’re in.”
For McManus and the Design team, it didn’t stop at just sourcing the right materials; it was also about ensuring each material sourced was, in fact, genuinely sustainable. It wasn’t enough to believe a supplier’s word when they told them a material was environmentally-friendly; they had to qualify those claims. It required working closely with the Corporate Citizenship team to audit our supply chain and source the sustainability certifications from every step in the supply chain process, down to the yarn we used. Documenting every phase with proper certifications (the “proof,” as it were) was paramount.
Next came the life cycle assessments. The way for a business to be considered sustainable is by considering the whole life cycle of the product. Life cycle sustainability assessments analyze the potential overall environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life from the extraction of raw materials, the processing involved to fabricate the product, plus the transportation and distribution to the consumer, the use of the product by the consumer, and the disposal of the product’s materials after use. It’s become the standard decision-making tool for brands, and it’s not to be taken lightly. “We did a life cycle analysis on our former Expedition Parka in comparison with the Standard Expedition Parka to see how we can move the needle. This required deep work behind the scenes to qualify our claims that certain features were sustainably-sourced, bit-by-bit,” says McManus. “We were very aware of the collective greenwashing that happens by brands, and while our consumers may not care (as much) about these nitty-gritty details, we have to stand behind what we say to be true. Just ask Woody.”
Woody Blackford is our EVP, Product, and he’s nothing if not honest. Quick to admit that there were times he felt the team might have bitten off more than they could chew (“Taking one of our most famous products to use as a test to see how far we could go was nerve-wracking.”), he was also resolute in knowing we could do it, and that’s because the spirit of Canada Goose is always to be entrepreneurial and relentless. “Our value system is built on passion, with no excuses, and an authenticity to hold ourselves accountable,” he says. “I kept reminding everyone that we’re living the values of Canada Goose in creating this parka. It’s a no-compromise product, and we are seeking a new frontier in sustainable innovation for our brand. As a team, we’re incredibly proud of that.”
The Standard Expedition Parka has a 31 percent lower carbon footprint and requires 68 percent less water based on footprint, compared to the in-line Expedition Parka. We have also offset the carbon emissions generated from the life cycle assessment of this parka as part of its pledge to measure, manage and mitigate its climate impact. To some, it may not seem significant in its gains, but it’s a giant leap forward for us as a brand. While we’re not at the top of Everest—yet—we’re climbing its steep pitch, one step at a time. “We know we’re going to do a lot more projects like this,” says Blackford. “Learning about this process of sustainability and looking ahead in our portfolio to see how we else we can push the envelope is really motivating for us.”
McManus concurs, just as enthusiastically. “To stay modern, to stay relevant, we need to make sure we’re always paying attention to the zeitgeist that’s happening around us,” she says. “It’s about a journey, and while we’re relatively new to it, and this product is the best we can do now, we’re continuing to keep our eye on the prize.”