Aug 13, 2021
by Sidney Pacampara
Columbia Focuses on People, Sustainability and Doing The Right Thing In Corporate Responsibility Report
by Sidney Pacampara
Aug 13, 2021

2020 was a tough year for brands and consumers alike, to say the least. Despite the hardships, corporate responsibility was at the forefront for Columbia Sportswear Company (CSC), which recently released its 2020 Corporate Responsibility report highlighting work accomplished by its four brands – Columbia, SOREL, Mountain Hardwear and prAna.

“Throughout the year, we remained true to our core values by continuing to invest in our employees and sustainable manufacturing processes, while focusing on urgent social challenges,” said Columbia Sportswear Company Chairman, President, and CEO Tim Boyle. “I’m proud that our employees rose to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, not only by being as productive as ever, but by excelling.”

The 49-page report breaks down performance highlights and progress made last year, focused on three main areas across its brands: empowering people, sustaining place, and responsible practices. 

2020 was a year that (should have) reminded us all how much we should prioritize people. For CSC and essentially every brand, this includes its employees, its supply chain partners, and the communities the company reaches through its brands. Empowering people was an important call last year, but even more important to continue. CSC’s work in this area included building seven new water towers in its manufacturing partners’ communities. The company now has constructed 22 water towers in total through the Columbia Clean Drinking Water Program. Each of these water towers provide up to 1,800 people with clean drinking water per day.

CSC also implemented a Catastrophic Paid Leave benefit in the United States, while working with other countries and their programs to ensure benefits abroad as a response to COVID-19. The company donated almost $1.9 million USD to charitable causes and organizations, and clocked in over 2,000 hours of volunteer time by CSC employees. 

Additionally, new employee resource groups were introduced to expand its employee network, and a senior-level Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Team was established. With the ground floor being laid by CSC, it’s even more important to track how much the company will sustain the work it has started. Empowering people is undoubtedly an important focus, and creating diversity, equity, and inclusion teams should truly serve its purpose, especially for a company that still has steps to take in the diversity of its global workforce.

Looking to the future, CSC’s impact on the places it conducts business in, sources materials from, and where it manufactures products are also pivotal areas. CSC is a global company, and like any other brand, its practices have direct consequences. With that in mind, CSC highlights in the report its “Sustaining Places” work, focused on four main pillars: Climate Management, Preferred Materials, Sustainable Manufacturing, and Chemical Management.

The company established a target of reducing manufacturing emissions by 30% before 2030. It also announced a 12% absolute year-over-year reduction in Scope 1, 2, and 3 global greenhouse gas emissions, while 72% of products across brands contained at least one preferred material. The company explains that a preferred material is “a material that has a demonstrated significant improved impact over a standard version of that material in at least one of the following impact categories: Animal-Welfare, Biodiversity, Chemicals, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use Intensity, Social Impact, Waste, and Water.”

The report also highlights, under the company’s “Sustaining Places” focus area, that prAna’s move to eliminate polybags from certain products diverted 2.6 million polybags bags from heading to the landfill. Additionally, CSC as company attained gold-level certification for its corporate headquarters from the Washington County Green Business Leaders recognizing environmentally responsible practices. 

In terms of responsible practices, CSC’s third and final focus area of its 2020 Corporate Responsibility report, much of the work is simply “doing the right thing.” In this area, the company focuses on ethics and compliance, social responsibility in its supply chain, workplace health and safety.

Highlights include 84% of its manufacturing partners receiving B ratings or above, with two rated “Best in Class,” as well as CSC strengthened its Social Responsibility program by becoming a Better Work partner, a partnership between the UN’s International Labour Organization and the International Finance Corporation to improve working conditions in the garment industry and to make the sector more competitive.

Additionally, CSC noted that the company has conducted 315 unannounced audits and assessments of its manufacturing partners’ facilities, and as a result, saw an increase in partners improving areas in audit and assessment performance, remediation efforts and long-term change, training and worker empowerment, management systems, and transparency.

The full 2020 Corporate Responsibility report and more detailed spotlights regarding CSC’s response to COVID-19, voting, social and racial justice, and climate can be viewed here. The company has also released a Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Index, which discloses the Company’s corporate responsibility efforts in accordance with SASB industry-specific standards.

The information and results from last year is in. There are many great things to celebrate Columbia Sportswear Company for, but as responsible consumers, it’s also holding the company accountable for continuing these efforts that’s vital. Keep an eye out for CSC, as its 2021 efforts continue to be rolled out, as well as reports from other brands going live.

In other company news, Crocs announced new net zero and vegan commitments last month.