Aiko Bode, Chief Sustainability and Chief Compliance Officer, Fenix Outdoor International
Success as the result of CSR, compliance and circular economy strategically anchored together
Q: Your company has embedded sustainability values as a part of its DNA. Can you tell us more about your Ethical Compass ?
Our Ethical Compass is comprised of four cardinal directions: Nature – Economy – Society – Well-being with all of them forming part of our strategic decision making. As an outdoor company, the environment and the accessibility of enjoyable moments in nature are essential for us. And being a company, we need to take economic rules into our equation as well. Needless to say that the societies we are operating in as well as our employees and customers are the cornerstones of our success.
Q: Can you name some examples of the initiatives that are part of your Agenda 2025?
“At Fenix Outdoor we say: ‘We want to leave our basecamp in a better shape than when we found it’ “
This translates that it is not enough if our company does less harm but we would rather want to have a positive impact with what we do in all four cardinal directions. This approach represents a challenge because sometimes trade-offs are necessary and – currently– we are facing several dilemmas, we are working on. However, we want to become climate positive, so we are working hard to keep our CO2 footprint as small as possible and offset where needed.
In order to truly go further with this initiative, we have begun to work with our business partners in our supply chain on improving their CO2 footprint as well and we are currently building a system to trace back our products to the very first raw ingredient. We use Trustrace, a Sweden-based block chain provider to help us achieve this. On the environmental side, we also want to use more and more sustainable and renewable materials, and shift to substances that are not harmful, and our opinion is that with waste being a big problem, we should strive to avoid. Therefore, each entity within Fenix follows this agenda and sets specific targets that have to be achieved by 2025.
The same also applies to our internal operations aiming to involve customers and employees. We need to move from the “use and throw-away mentality” to a much more humble “this valuable item” mentality. The philosophy behind is that: customers need to become users and users need to understand that it is a privilege to use a specific item and take care of it. Once we have achieved this goal, the term “consumption” will need to be redefined or abolished except for in nutritional terms.
Q: There are 9 principles built into your brands, from which longevity is my favorit. I have been wearing my mother’s sweater and after 40 years of constant wearing and washing, it’s still like new! Are such durability and quality of your products reflected in the pricing and how do they compare to the competition? Secondly, can you tell me more about low material impact and recycling part?
This is a perfect example. Usage instead of “consumption” is what I “preach” all the time. We need to show respect for the work of the people who made products, designed them, and for this you will have to pay as well – our brands are considered as premium in our industry.
In terms of materials we need to think much more holistically. Just saying: ”it works – so it is good” is simply not good enough. We need materials that do not harm the environment – preferably at all stage of production process. Furthermore, I like the idea that a material that is thought through can last for generations in the use phase and become the input for a new product at the end of the use phase. However, to be clear: by simply saying: “this material is a natural material”, we have not necessarily made a sustainable choice, so that is why we find it very important to consider all four cardinal directions of our Ethical Compass.
Q: How is circularity implemented in your business model?
As said earlier, if waste and prodigality are not the ways to go, then we need to re-think our business approach. There are various steps to be taken: the right design and the right design choices in terms of materials; the function of the product and the simplicity so it remains repairable; then, the longevity of the product, the right care instructions and the possibility to take the product back and let it become the input for another product – that is what we strive for.
Our idea is to reduce energy, water, chemicals and materials to the minimum leading to zero waste. Are we there yet? No, but we are working on it and with our Re-Kanken product we’ve got pretty close: the design of the product is such, that virtually no cutting waste occurs. The material is recycled polyester and the whole product is made of one material using Spindye, a water saving dying process. In the end, the product can be recycled again and, for example, it can be used as an input for new Re-Kankens. Still, there is a long way to go until we get there but we are taking steps and moving forward with our Fenix Way.
Q: Finally, how do your sustainable strategy, CSR and circularity effect your revenue and costs? Is there any obvious impact on the top and bottom line by implementing and using sustainable practices?
Well, this is very difficult to assess. However, if our constituency walks this path with us, we will sell these products, become stronger and remain successful.
“I think we have to turn the argument around: Had we NOT embedded circularity, rental or any other sustainability consideration into our business model, we simply would be out of business. So the question is not if it is rewarded – I think it is expected.”
Fenix Outdoor International AG is the holding company for the premium outdoor brands Fjällräven, Primus, Hanwag, Brunton, Tierra and Royal Robbins as well as the specialized outdoor retailers Globetrotter Ausrüstung, Friluftsland, Naturkompaniet and Partioaitta. The oldest brand is more than 125 years in operation. Fenix Outdoor Int. AG is registered in Switzerland and stock-listed in Sweden. The turnover in 2019 was about 616 million Euros. The companies operate globally with main offices in Europe, China and the United States. About 2,500 people (2018 figure) work for Fenix Outdoor’s entities.