Picture Organic Clothing, a French company founded in 2008, aims to combine high-performance with sustainability to ensure that every freeride and backcountry session respects the natural environment. They actively acknowledge the impact of textile industries on the environment (which are responsible for over 8% of the world’s carbon emissions) and believe that eliminating their dependence on fossil fuels is the best way to reduce their impact. The Demain Jacket is a good representation of their goals since it provides excellent technical performance whilst still taking the sustainability of materials and processes used in its production and lifetime into consideration. The jacket originally retailed at €499.99, which sits at the lower end of the price range for similar high-performance jackets.
A close collaboration between Picture and Xpore resulted in the development of the Demain jacket, a unique 3-layer performance jacket consisting of 58% Bio-sourced Polyester / 42% Polyester, Bio-sourced Hard Shell, XPORE MEMBRANE, PFC Free Durable Water Repellent. The hydrophobic Xpore membrane used improves performance, since it provides excellent breathability whilst maintaining a waterproof barrier, and also proves to be a more sustainable option compared to other membrane alternatives. Through its inherent design, the eco-friendly membrane Xpore Polyolefin requires less material for the desired performance properties than traditional membranes. Xpore Polyolefin is also much lighter than other materials (weight of Xpore Polyolefin is 5.0~6.0 g/m2, weight of PFTE is 14-16 g/m2, weight of Polyurethane is 16~23 g/m2).
Unlike with other membranes, solvents and chemical compounds such as PFCs (perfluorocarbons) are not used in its production. PFCs, which are members of the halocarbon family and thus direct contributors to global warming, do not readily break down and extensive human exposure has arisen from their widespread use. This poses severe health threats, with inflammatory concerns highlighted amongst many others. Despite these benefits, polyolefin is still a petroleum-based derivative and so the production is not a sustainable practise. Whilst work has begun to make the Xpore membrane with recycled Polyolefin, the current reliance on fossil-fuel derivatives is a cause for concern.
The bio-sourced materials used in the hard-shell face fabric consist of a sugarcane waste derivative unsuitable for human consumption. The use of bio-sourced material rather than petroleum derivatives is encouraging.
Picture offers a lifetime repair warranty for technical jackets, along with other products, which in time is an effective way to reduce waste.
Energy use is a major cause for concern when considering the sustainability of the Demain jacket, particularly when considering membrane production. The membrane is produced by BenQ in China where the energy mix is heavily dependent on coal. A goal of Picture is to drive BenQ to transition to renewable energy use through the installation of solar panels to eliminate the dependency on fossil-fuel based electricity generation. BenQ already takes such measures in other factories in Taiwan (84% of Picture’s total volume is produced in Turkey and Taiwan and there are plans to further increase the use of renewables and low carbon energies within manufacturing processes here). Work is being done to investigate the potential of producing the Xpore membrane with recycled Polyolefin, and this would offset the negative effects of unsustainable energy production processes.
Logistics (transportation and warehousing) only represents 3.6% of Picture’s overall emissions, which is relatively low. Picture sells in 40 countries and uses maritime transport methods, which is a low-emitting mode of transport. This likely contributes significantly to the small proportion of emissions coming from logistics.
Picture is currently exploring the possibility of ‘energy reshoring’ production of lower-volume products and moving to countries with low-carbon electricity (eg. France, Portugal, Vietnam). Moving production back to France is not considered to be feasible due to high labour costs compared with those in countries where manufacturing is currently being done. There is also the concern that they don’t want to abandon relationships with Turkey and Taiwan. Factory workers in China being utilised for their low labour costs are very likely to have poor working rights and benefits compared to those working in the US, France, or the UK. This does not seem to have been considered in the motivation to move the site of production.
Picture is a certified B corporation, meaning that they meet high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practises and input materials. This does not however necessarily translate to positive behaviour since only 80 out of 200 available points are required for certification, and so a company can meet B corporation requirements despite degrading the environment in other areas where they did not obtain points. Picture is also a member of the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) and are audited annually on their purchasing practises. The FWF aims to improve working conditions for employees within the garment industry. Despite this positive effort, the FWF are under criticism since receiving the Fair Wear stamp of approval only demonstrates a stated interest in working towards improvement and does not guarantee any existing quality of labour standards.
Picture acknowledge failings within the textile industry and actively call for collaboration and seek advice regarding solutions for energy production and energy transition in an attempt to create change and move towards a more sustainable future. As part of this work, they advertise the French initiative ‘En Mode Climate’ on their website, highlighting the need for more regulations and government intervention to speed up energy transition.
Picture make the information regarding product materials, manufacturing and production processes, and future plans and goals concerning sustainable practise readily available for public viewing. It is very encouraging to see the transparency between the corporation and the consumer.