As we celebrate Earth Day, the imperative of sustainability resonates more profoundly than ever, particularly in industries like ours, where every step impacts our planet. At Auclair, we're acutely aware of our responsibility to minimize our ecological footprint, especially in crafting sustainable ski gear. Recognizing this urgency, we've engaged in a discussion with our product manager to understand how Auclair is actively integrating sustainable business practices into our operations. This interview provides invaluable insight into our devotion to environmentally conscious procedures in the field of green skiing equipment and our commitment to sustainable ski gear. Join us as we navigate through Auclair's sustainable journey, illuminating the path towards a more environmentally responsible future.

"Sustainability in business refers to a company's strategy and actions to reduce adverse environmental and social impacts resulting from business operations"

Auclair's Sustainability Story

A Q&A Session with Our Product Manager.

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What inspired Auclair to integrate sustainability across its business operations? 

Sustainability has been a hot topic for over 50 years now. It's nothing new. Folks in the economic scene, especially in the outdoor sports industry, can't ignore the environmental impact of their activities anymore if they want to preserve our playground. And it's not just about the mountains and snow! We're talking about our oceans, our forests, and even our health! Sure, climate change often gets the spotlight, but the issues run deeper, especially considering that Auclair operates in one of the most polluting industries out there. Action is needed. That's where the whole "do our part" mindset kicks in, aiming to minimize our footprint on the environment and our well-being. We're striving to bring products to the market that incorporate components and materials that are gentler on nature and less harmful to our health.

The team at Auclair is fully aware of these challenges. We're far from perfect when it comes to sustainability, but we're fortunate enough to be able to play a part in the shift towards products that are more respectful of nature and our health.

What sustainable materials are we currently using in the production of our gloves, and why did we choose them? 

Our goal is to offer high-performance, technical, and durable products. These concepts carry significant weight in our product development efforts.

Finding leather is easy. Finding leather that's colored with natural tannins and waterproofed with less harmful environmental products, with a certain thickness that allows the user to have a durable product while maintaining exceptional dexterity, well, that's a different story!

Today, for example, we're proud to increasingly work with leathers that are treated without Chrome. Chrome has long been and still is used in the leather tanning process. It's also referred to as mineral tanning. The vast majority of leather on the market (regardless of industry) uses this method. One of the elements of chrome is recognized by health authorities as potentially causing diseases. Alternatives exist, and we're proud to utilize them. We use leathers tanned with natural tannins (or veg-tan) such as parts of plants, wood, fruits, leaves of trees, etc... All of this, of course, with the aim of minimizing the use of harmful chemicals for nature and our bodies.

We also incorporate recycled synthetic materials in our fabrics, insulation, or membranes through our partnerships. Partnerships like PrimaLoft® or 3M™ Thinsulate™, which now offer options of recycled polyester derived from consumption (Post-Consumer-Recycled). Does this set us apart from other industry players? Not necessarily. But it's a choice that promotes circularity and the reuse of materials, rather than opting for insulation without traceability. It also ensures a certain level of performance.

Where we do stand out, however, is in some fabrics that we meticulously choose, which are made from recycled plastic bottles through a highly innovative process (dope-dyeing). These choices also extend to our product accessories. We use recycled and recyclable cardboard, as little paper as possible, etc.

Can you discuss any partnerships or collaborations with environmental organizations or initiatives that we're part of?  

One of our flagship collaborations is with Protect Our Winter (POW) through their Game On 2023 campaign. As a brand collaborator, we're honored to support the world's first program that transforms climate action into an ''official sport''. During Black Friday, we donated $ to POW for every glove sold on our website, supporting their important work.

Auclair is also a member of SIA (Snowsports Industries America) and we support Climate United movement that raise sustainability awareness throughout the industry.

Additionally, as a member of PrAna, we follow packaging guidelines for a more sustainable approach.

What are the main challenges we face in making our winter gloves more sustainable 

The main challenges lie in performance on certain materials, pricing, and labor.

Finding the perfect balance between performance, aesthetics, and sustainability isn't always easy, as explained earlier. Even though resources and technologies are evolving rapidly and in the right direction year after year, sometimes certain available materials that we would like to integrate into our products for their less polluting properties don't meet our performance specifications. Whether it's technical performance or sustainable performance (such as resistance to abrasion, for example).

There's also the barrier of retail price. The choices we make and stand by for using less impactful materials come with a cost in production. The addition of these costs impacts the retail price that consumers sometimes don't necessarily understand. Fortunately, purchasing behaviors and consumption patterns are evolving in the right direction. Consumers are now willing to pay more for a product that's better for the environment. The question is, how much more are they willing to pay? There may be a gap today between what consumers are willing to pay and the price offered by brands to cover their expenses. The entire team at Auclair is working hard to offer the best possible price considering the technology and components put into a product.

Lastly, in a globalized economy and mass consumption scenario, we have no choice but to outsource certain stages of our value chain. Here, I'm referring to production. To maintain competitiveness in our prices but also due to a lack of labor in Canada, we haven't found alternatives to Asia for producing our gloves. If we could ensure our sales volumes with a factory in Canada with sufficient production capacity, of course, the opportunity would be considered. But as of today, we haven't found one. With outsourced production, there's inevitably an impact on the environment due to transportation, notably, and the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) it entails. So, we have to juggle between consumer habits (wanting everything quickly and at the best price), the obligations of our business partners (related to the winter season and skiing practices), while being as environmentally respectful as possible. It's challenging.

How does our brand define sustainability, and how are we measuring our progress towards these goals?  

At Auclair, our approach to eco-responsibility is about making choices that are as low-impact as possible on our environment and overall health, to the best of our knowledge and abilities, at every level of our value chain.

Our partners in Asia renew their SMETA certifications annually, in addition to adhering to international regulations governing the use of chemicals (such as California Proposition 65 or REACH). Every year, our parent company, NEW WAVE GROUP (NWG), insists that 100% of our products comply with their Restricted Substance List, which is updated annually and encompasses all relevant restrictions in these regulations.

Furthermore, NWG issues an annual public report on the sustainability aspect of all its brands, including ours, allowing us to track our progress and contributions to sustainability efforts.

How are we addressing the balance between producing high-quality, durable gloves and maintaining sustainability goals?

We draw upon our extensive experience. Since 1945, Auclair has been crafting gloves, so we know what makes a glove perform.

The key is innovation. We've been able to cultivate strong relationships with suppliers in Asia, who operate in SMETA-certified factories audited by third parties. These partners source innovative and high-performing materials for us, while also prioritizing low environmental impact.

Internally, we also keep a close watch on emerging trends and new materials that can be used across different industries and applied to our products. This isn't a new subject, and thankfully, all brands have made significant progress. It's thanks to our experience and our team of enthusiasts that we're able to select materials that tick off as many boxes as possible for our products.

What has been our biggest learning experience on the sustainability journey, and how has it shaped our approach?    

There's no one-size-fits-all solution, and it's up to each brand, and each employee within the brand, to make the best possible decisions while keeping in mind the impact, whether positive or negative, on our environment. It's the cumulative effect of even the smallest actions, carried out by each person in their role, that will make the difference in the end.

Embracing sustainable skiing: Our vision for the Future

As we close this chapter on our discussion of sustainable skiing gear, we, at Auclair, are filled with excitement for the journey ahead. Our commitment to sustainability isn't just a trend; it's a core value that drives everything we do. Looking forward, we envision a future where every skier can enjoy the thrill of the slopes without compromising the environment. We invite you to join us on this journey by choosing Auclair for your winter adventures.

Together, let’s make sustainable skiing a reality and leave a positive impact on our planet for generations to come!