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Rab Unveils ‘Nutrition Label’ for Sustainability: Material Facts

BAD CROP(Photo/Rab)
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Rab’s ‘Material Facts’ targets consumers with a familiar format to communicate recycled material, fluorocarbon content, and production location.

Think of virgin fabrics and PFCs as added sugars and trans fats — that’s the tack British outerwear brand Rab will take with a new approach to some of its product labeling.

Launching today, “Material Facts” mimics the nutrition information that has become ubiquitous in the last few decades. With it, Rab hopes consumers find its sustainability messaging “open, honest, and easy to understand.”

“We believe in trust and honesty and are frustrated with the lack of clarity and assumptions around sustainability criteria,” said Tim Fish, product director for Rab parent company Equip. “We may not have it right (yet), but we are transparent, show our methodology, and are open to an industry-wide dialogue.”

Material Facts goes live today and will eventually become standard in every piece of apparel Rab makes. Let’s get into what it will look like, where you can find it, and what it does not do (yet).

Rab Material Facts Labeling

To start, Material Facts won’t live on the garment itself. Rather, the labeling will tie back to a QR code consumers can scan at the point of purchase. This code will retrieve labeling, which lives on Rab’s website.

If you want to take Material Facts for a spin, scan the QR code below.

material facts QR code

These labels will look and read like nutrition labels on food. Except instead of macronutrients, Material Facts will show a product’s recycled material content (by percent-weight), the presence or absence of fluorocarbons (PFCs), and where the product was manufactured.

In the future, Rab said, Material Facts will include even more information. The brand didn’t specify what else might make its way into these labels, but third-party certifications, compostable materials, and carbon footprint are all common criteria we’d like to see.

For this launch, Rab will roll out Material Facts on its insulation products. More apparel categories and sleeping bags will follow.

The Need for Better Information

Today’s announcement supports the Sustainability Data Exchange Project, an initiative set forth by the European Outdoor Group (EOG), a conglomerate of some 100 outdoor brands, retailers, associations, and tech providers across Europe.

In short, this project hopes to demystify and untangle the snarl of disparate marketing claims around sustainability. The term “greenwashing” has picked up steam as companies race to satisfy consumer demand for more environmentally (socially) conscious products.

Fair Trade, Organic, Net Zero, recycled, compostable, biodegradable, Bluesign, and a wealth of others confront buyers in the outdoor space every day. But what do they all mean and how should consumers measure one against another?

Material Facts does not fully resolve that problem, but it could be a step in the right direction. However, recycled content and PFCs are just small pieces of the overall impact puzzle.

As with nutrition labeling, if more companies buy into cohesive messaging, it may help consumers make better-informed choices. It’s not perfect, but if this format moves us toward that, then we’re all for it.

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