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This Outdoor Gear Company Is Changing the Way It Communicates About Sustainability

Want to know what's in your clothes? Rab's 'Material Facts' program will tell you.

a hand holding a phoneRab's 'Material Facts' program will roll out beginning in September 2023; (photo/Rab)
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It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when packaged food didn’t come with a nutrition label. But folks got increasingly concerned about the ingredients in the food they were eating, and over time a system sprang up to accommodate the desire to be a smarter consumer.

Enter Rab, the UK-based apparel and gear maker angling to bring the same transparency to the outdoor industry. Rab recently announced its ‘Material Facts’ program — in essence, a nutrition label for clothes.

Starting this September, Rab clothing and sleeping bags will sport a QR code on the tag. Scan the code, and your phone will pull up a label that tells you crucial sustainability information about your gear.

Want to know if your jacket contains fluorocarbons? Rab’s on it. How about how much of your jacket liner is recycled? You got it. And the best part is, it works anywhere in the world.

The system is easy and self-explanatory. The only thing consumers might question is what “trims” refers to. Rab explains, “trims include (but are not limited to) zips, toggles, pulls, pocket linings, logos, hood stiffeners, cords, and eyelets.”

One of Rab's new labels side by side with a pile of jacket material
What’s in your clothes? Rab wants to let you know; (photo and screenshot/Rab)

“Communicating sustainability information is complex and means different things to different people, often leading to misleading claims and greenwashing,” Rab product director Tim Fish noted in a press release.

“We’ve developed our non-branded Material Facts program to provide consumers with enough information to make their own educated purchasing decisions. The program leads the way by taking into account consumers’ and retailers’ demands for accurate and honest sustainability product claims.”

Data on sustainability in the outdoor industry (or any industry) can be notoriously difficult to parse. Rab’s hope is that this level of transparency (as opposed to a label referencing often-opaque or confusing sustainability standards) will empower consumers and encourage other brands to follow suit.

Rab makes a point of saying its initiative is not branded, and it will share the Material Facts program data and strategy with any brand that asks.

“There haven’t been any explicit overtures [from other companies], but Rab is hoping that the transparency and accountability contained in Material Facts will set a new standard that others in the outdoor industry will follow,” a Rab representative told GearJunkie. “It benefits consumers, manufacturers, and the environment for everybody to know exactly what is going into outdoor gear.”

The company claims the program will expand to packs, equipment, and accessories by the end of 2024. Sister company Lowe Alpine will also participate in the program in the coming months. You can learn more about the Material Facts program at Rab’s website.

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