A pioneer in sustainability, outdoor specialist Patagonia is making a strategic investment in Beyond Surface Technologies, a fast-growing Swiss chemical company, to improve the environmental impact of the textiles the brand uses to manufacture its performance apparel.
This story first appeared in the April 7, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The investment comes through Patagonia’s $20 Million & Change fund that launched in 2013 to help innovative, like-minded companies bring solutions to the environmental crisis and other positive change through business. Patagonia did not disclose the size of the investment in Beyond Surface Technologies, founded in 2008 by scientists and marketing experts with more than 40 years of experience in the textile industry with the premise of making textile treatments based on natural raw materials without sacrificing performance or reducing the lifespan of a product. The investment is said to be in excess of $1 million.
The agreement comes as sustainability has come to the forefront in apparel and textile manufacturing, from smaller yarn and fabric firms to corporate giants such as Kering, VF Corp., H&M and Levi’s committing to programs aimed at improving their environmental footprint.
Patagonia noted that chemicals are a required component in achieving the high performance needed for harsh outdoor conditions and are what makes waterproof materials stand up to torrential wilderness downpours, jackets that can resist wind on a steep pitch and pants that have the right amount of protection in knee-deep fresh powder. Yet these chemicals used to create such technical performance can be toxic and persist in the environment.
“This is the tension we feel every day, making the best technical products for our core sports and working to fulfill our environmental commitments,” said Patagonia chief executive officer Rose Marcario. “We look for better, cleaner, safer ways to do things, we apply our own R&D and look for brilliant companies to partner with. Beyond Surface Technologies has the potential to help Patagonia and our entire industry get to the next level of chemical safety without compromising performance, and we’re very excited to invest in their success.”
Patagonia, based in Ventura, Calif., said that consistent with prior environmental innovations over the past 20 years, it plans to share any breakthroughs that Beyond Surface Technologies may produce with the entire outdoor industry in order to amplify the environmental impact to the greatest extent possible.
Matthias Foessel, ceo of Beyond Surface Technologies, said, “Patagonia’s investment gives us the opportunity to accelerate testing and reduce time to market for our pipeline of groundbreaking new treatments for the entire apparel industry. Patagonia is enabling us to grow even faster, benefiting the environment and enhancing product performance while remaining completely independent and in control of the original founders.”
Beyond Surface Technologies makes textile treatments based on natural raw material. Its line of miDori bioLink textile finishing products has earned the USDA Certified Biobased Product label that verifies that the renewable biobased content of the products meets or exceeds levels set by the USDA. Biobased products are defined as finished or intermediate materials composed in whole or in significant part of agricultural, forestry, or marine ingredients.
The miDori line is aimed at eliminating the use of formaldehyde-based products in garment production. The company also has developed a bioSoft range of soft hand-wicking finishes for sportswear, as well as an oil-absorbing, water-repelling, nonwoven fabric for oil relief efforts called Oilguard.
Founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973, Patagonia is a certified B-Corp. company whose mission is to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. Since 1985, Patagonia has dedicated one percent of sales each year to environmental causes.
In fiscal year 2014, the company gave 770 environmental groups in 16 countries a total of $6.6 million toward protecting wildlife, wilderness, rivers and oceans, as well as promoting renewable energy and sustainable agriculture, and fighting pollution and harmful resource extraction.
“As a company made up of activists, our mission to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis goes far beyond our own company,” said Lisa Pike Sheehy, director of global environmental initiatives at Patagonia. “These groups are mobilizing their communities on the front lines to take action in strategic and impactful ways. Supporting them is the cost of doing business.”
Since the program began in 1985, Patagonia has given more than $56 million in grants and in-kind donations to more than 3,000 organizations.
In addition, Patagonia’s $20 Million & Change fund has received interest from more than 600 companies who share similar business and environmental missions and invested in 10 companies to date, including Bureo Skateboards, Kina’Ole Solar, CO2 Nexus, Yerdle and California Safe Soil. Last April, the fund made a similar strategic investment in CO2Nexus, Inc., a company that has developed a sustainable method of processing textiles and garments with liquid carbon dioxide using zero water, consuming less energy and generating little waste.