On July 7th, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) delivered more than 48,000 petition signatures to Columbia Sportswear CEO, calling for the company to phase out toxic PFAS from its supply chain by 2024.
Along with the tens of thousands of voices represented by the petition, local activists joined with the two groups to announce the petition delivery and urge the company to take action in front of the company’s flagship store in Portland, Oregon.
PFAS are a class of more than 12,000 toxic chemicals, known for extensive pollution of the nation’s drinking water sources, accumulation in wildlife and threat to public health. These chemicals have been linked to a variety of serious health effects, including developmental issues, kidney and liver disease and cancer. Despite the threat, PFAS are used extensively in the outdoor apparel industry – in coatings and membranes – to make clothes water and stain resistant.
While several outdoor apparel companies based in the United States and Europe – including Patagonia, L.L. Bean and Jack Wolfskin – have either already eliminated or committed to a time-bound phase out of the chemicals, Columbia Sportswear has yet to take similar action.
The company received a grade of “F” in a recent scorecard published by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, NRDC and Fashion FWD for its weak action on PFAS.
At Columbia Sportswear’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders last month, CEO Tim Boyle noted that the company has “been focused on reducing our use of PFAS and ultimately phasing them out.” To date, however, Columbia Sportswear has yet to publicly establish a date for phase out.
A public and time-bound commitment is essential to assure Columbia customers and the public that the company will act decisively and quickly to protect public health in the face of the large body of evidence that PFAS poses a significant threat to people and the planet.
Continued use of PFAS in the company’s supply chain directly undermines Columbia Sportswear’s vision of promoting sustainability and clean water supplies around the globe. It also exacerbates investor risk and places Columbia behind numerous competitors who have made commitments to phase out all PFAS use from their products and supply chains.
Furthermore, proposed restrictions on PFAS use in apparel in the United States and in Europe could leave the company behind the rapidly evolving legal landscape restricting the uses of these chemicals.
To do its part in protecting the public from the dangers of PFAS and protect its own reputation and consumers, Columbia Sportswear should immediately and publicly announce a timeline for phase out of these toxic chemicals by 2024.
Zero Out Toxics, Advocate, PIRG
Emily advocates to remove toxic chemicals from our everyday lives and the environment. Emily is a NEPA native and enjoys knitting, hiking and cooking with friends.