FCS H4 Surfboard Fins

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Lydia Dai
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FCS is an Australian brand with a global outreach. It is one of the largest and most popular providers of surf equipment, and it is especially known for the quality and high-end technology of its surfboard fins. FCS fins are being used by some of the most prominent surfers around the world. For a price of 170 USD, the H4 fin is one of FCS’ latest releases of high-performance fins. It has gained popularity even though it is not made out of the most sustainable materials, since performance is the higher priority for FCS.
Because the company hasn’t published any information about its material sourcing and production practices, it is hard to gauge the climate impact of this specific product. However, FCS does have evidence-based social commitments and fully sustainable packaging and shipping practices. Despite the downside that FCS needs to become more transparent, I believe that the company is putting in a genuine effort to become more sustainable.

What it's made of:


The H4 Fins have a hex core with a carbon fiber layer outside. Hex is essentially a type of steel, for the production of which iron is needed. Depending on how the mining of iron is conducted, it can result in water contamination and air pollution. The high temperature required for mining often consumes a large amount of energy. The positive point about steel is that it is almost 100% recyclable without degradation in the material quality. In fact, most steel products are made of recycled steel. Yet, it is worth noting that recycling steel still requires a high amount of heat and energy. How steel is sourced at FCS is unknown, the company should open up more about this.
Carbon fiber is a type of thermoplastic. It is very popular in the surfboard industry because it is both extremely light and strong, but its impact on the environment is more negative than positive throughout its lifecycle. During production, most of the carbon fiber lands in the landfill. Carbon fiber’s strength comes from the precise alignments of fiber polymers that are cured at high temperatures and pressures. This makes carbon fiber very hard to recycle because it cannot be melted down like steel; the useful fibers can only be extracted by being burnt off or chemically dissolved. The upside of carbon fiber is its durability because it decreases the frequency of product replacement.
The material for the H4 is not very sustainable. Unless there is no way to go around it because you depend on its performance, I would look into alternative, more sustainable fin options.

How it's made:


FCS has a page dedicated to sustainability. Unfortunately, very little to no information can be found on the production process of the H4 fins. There is only one type of fin that is made of upcycled materials, but this doesn’t apply to the H4 fin. However, the company is focusing on extending the product life span. Besides increasing circular material use, this is one way to reduce our consumption of natural resources. For the packaging, however, the H4 fins are placed in a pulp tray made from old newspaper and wrapped in a recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic sleeve. FCS uses soy-based ink for all of the printing, which is not only great for the environment, but also makes the recycling process of the paper easier. Additionally, the fins are shipped in recyclable bags, and increasingly even in biodegradable post bags made from plants and non-toxic renewable resin.
It is unknown where the fins are produced; there is definitely more transparency needed in terms of the production process. Being one of the largest suppliers of surfboard fins, FCS fins could be likely be made through mass production in countries with low labor costs. Although I do see the effort the company is putting in to become sustainable, more transparency would be more convincing. 

Who makes it:


FCS was first founded in Australia. Now a global corporation and one of the leading providers of surfboard fins, they show genuine dedication to sustainability through various company-owned projects and partnerships with outside sustainability projects.
1% of FCS’ sales are fully donated to promote ocean and environmental activism. Being consistent in making such donations, is not bad when it’s in addition to its involvement in other projects. The donations are done through the Growing Whale Trust (GWT), a project founded by FCS’ owner focusing on increasing awareness and educating people about the annual whale migrations; GWT essentially has the goal to help ensure the mammal’s survival. In partnership with The Stoke Foundation, FCS donates surf equipment to kids and teenagers around the world in need to enable them to pursue surfing. Finally, the FCS Strings for Charity initiative is another example that is solely created to support Surfaid International, a mission to improve the health, wellbeing, and resilience of families living in isolated regions; 100% of the profits made in this initiative are donated to Surfaid International.
It is great to know FCS’ involvement in projects. They have recognized that improvement is always needed, and several projects are under development to help minimize their carbon footprint, although these are not clearly outlined with deadlines or goals. Yet, based on the previous evidence, I believe that FCS’ social sustainability commitments are genuine.
The only negative point is that the social well-being of FCS’ employees or the communities involved in the production remains unknown, which is a major transparency issue that FCS needs to improve on.