The Burton Blog

The Dirty Reality of the Textile Industry and Why bluesign® is so Important

You have to know where you've been to know where you're going.

These words run large across the lobby wall of Burton’s Vermont Headquarters. Sometimes it means staying true to our roots, and other times it's a reminder that self-awareness precedes progression: In order to create a solution, we have to face the problem.

But the bigger the problem, the more daunting that becomes, and the dirty reality of the textile industry can be conservatively described as a global crisis. The typical textile supply chain pollutes air and local waterways in extracting huge amounts of non-renewable resources to produce clothing worn for a short amount of time, after which copious amounts of materials are sent to landfills. According to a recent Ellen Macarthur Foundation report, more than $500 billion USD is lost every year due to clothing underutilization and a lack of recycling, and total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production is at 1.2 billion tons annually: That's more than all international flights and sea freight shipping, combined. Not to mention the great statistical likelihood that the clothes you're wearing may have been made at a factory that treats it workers unfairly in a harmful environment.

Given the magnitude of the issue, unprecedented commitment and collaboration is required to fix it. Simply put, bluesign® is doing the absolute best work out there to manage this complicated mess, and our partnership with them has helped us dramatically transform our softgoods products and supply chain over the past few years.

We started our work with bluesign® in 2011. So far, 85% of our outerwear, 50% of our base layers, and 38% of our bags are bluesign®-approved.
By 2020, you can rest assured that every softgood item we sell will be bluesign®-approved.

While some eco-certifications verify finished products only—without considering what problematic processes or unknown substances could have been used in the earlier stages—bluesign® gets to the root: Every single approved material, chemical, and factory is audited in advance, ensuring safe ingredients and a clean supply chain through and through.

When you buy bluesign®-certified, you're buying clothing made strictly according to three key principles:

  1. Resource Productivity: bluesign® audits water and energy use at all facilities to ensure that factories are approved only if they meet high levels of resource efficiency. Textile production is one of the most water-intensive industries in the world today—toward the end of this interview with bluesign® founder Peter Waeber, he said some pretty crazy stuff on this subject.
  2. Human Safety: bluesign®-approved products are built from approved components and materials that meet the strictest global standards for hazardous chemistry and are produced in a responsible way. That means that everyone impacted by our products—from factory workers to you, our customer—are protected from harmful chemical exposure.
  3. Clean Air & Water Emissions: bluesign® audits and drives improvements at factories to ensure that they're not releasing dangerous levels of harmful substances into the air and water.

To protect the playground and the people that sustain our sport means redefining progression.

That opening mantra is more easily pursued because we're privately owned with leaders that care. This is how we avoid saying stuff just because it sounds good, and it's why we're able to, quite literally, put our money where our mouth is.

Burton's VP of Global Strategy and Insights, Ali Kenney, has driven our bluesign® partnership forward for the past seven years. "Since global governments don’t protect citizens from hazardous chemicals in consumer products and in the environment, we utilize bluesign® to help us ensure that our products and processes aren't harmful. People assume that they’re protected and they’re not. bluesign® provides us with the most stringent system to control and regulate chemicals so that customers and workers can be certain that they are safe. The next step is up to the people: to vote with their dollars and choose responsible brands and products.”

Regardless of the brand you're shopping from, you can fight the good fight by looking for the bluesign® tag of approval before purchasing apparel and outerwear.