One of our top priorities is making sure our materials and products are safe for both humans and the environment. Our goal is to control the entire lifecycle of our products – from raw material, through the production process, to the finished product. We launched the new Oberalp Chemical Policy in 2018. It introduces a formal process to ban, or limit, the presence and use of hazardous substances in our products and production processes. This guarantees safety and compliance. The policy includes a list of chemicals that are excluded or limited from all our products (Restricted Substances List, RSL). All our brands’ products have to abide by the policy. It’s a central part of the Conditions of Purchase with our suppliers, and it’s mandatory at every stage of the production and distribution process. We conduct chemical tests on our products to ensure they meet our high standards and we also work with expert partners and third-party certifications, such as bluesign®.
Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) are a type of chemical compound used to make everyday products resistant to water, grease and stains. We use them in some of our technical products to ensure water repellence and permeability. PFCs guarantee best-in-class performance for technical apparel that needs to be both water-repellent and still allow humidity to exit. These qualities are crucial for professional mountain expeditions. Despite years of industry research, there’s still no technology that replicates the performance of PFCs.
PFCs have been criticised because, in high concentrations, they’ve been linked to negative health effects in humans and wildlife. They don’t easily degrade in nature and they travel easily through water and wind, becoming more concentrated along food chains. PFCs look like a snake, with a head and a long tail. Different types of PFCs have different tail lengths – the longer the tail, the stronger their ability to repel water, but also the more dangerous they are. That’s why we excluded all long-chain PFCs in 2014, as soon as we got to know of their negative effect.
We are constantly looking for alternatives to reduce our impact on the environment, while still protecting our users. The process we have put in place consists of restricting the use of the most dangerous PFCs, rethinking the need for water repellency treatments, replacing PFCs with available alternatives when possible, researching and reuniting with the industry and experts to find joint solutions. We’ve made a big leap towards reducing our use of PFCs. The number of apparel items where we're using PFC water-repellent treatment was reduced by 22% between 2018 and 2019. We continue to make great progress in the reduction across the board in PFCs. But in the lack of good alternatives and because we also have a responsibility to ensure the safety of mountaineers using our products, we continue to use PFCs in some of our products (only short-chain, C6).