GORE completes elimination of PFOA from raw material of its functional fabrics

Feldkirchen-Westerham, 8 January 2014 – GORE successfully completed by the end of the year 2013 a project specifically set up to eliminate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) from all raw materials used in the manufacture of its weatherproof functional fabrics. This move affects all membranes and DWR (Durable Water Repellency) treatments for the whole range of fabrics used in finished products such as mountaineering, running, cycling, fashion and lifestyle garments, footwear for outdoor sports and casual wear, and work wear for fire and police services. This makes GORE one of the first companies in the sector to successfully manage the changeover to PFOA free raw materials for its entire range of textile products.

PFOA has been detected in the raw materials used in a wide range of industries including the carpet making, automotive, food packaging and outdoor sectors. PFOA has recently been added to the List of Substances of Very High Concern of the European Union REACH regulation. A set of directives is currently being worked on.

According to Bernhard Kiehl, leader of the GORE Fabrics Division sustainability team: “GORE has been actively pursuing an environmental programme for nearly 30 years. GORE’s strong focus over the years on Life Cycle Assessment has shown that the single most effective means of reducing the environmental impact of a product is to maximize its lifetime. Durable performance is indispensable if functional jackets and footwear are expected to have a long lifetime. For this reason it was of major importance to us that we were able to eliminate PFOA from our raw materials without compromising on the performance people have come to expect from our products.”

Ten years ago GORE Fabrics progressively started to eliminate PFOA from its products. In 2011 it changed its durable water repellency (DWR) treatment for its consumer fabrics to more environmentally friendly alternatives.

More than 50% of the laminates volume is bluesign® approved

The fact that GORE products have always been environmentally friendly and safe for consumers, even before PFOA had been eliminated from the raw materials, is also confirmed by their conformity to the bluesign® standard and the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 for textile product safety.

Both GORE-TEX® and WINDSTOPPER® consumer garments meet the criteria of OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 which since 1992 tests fabrics to ensure that they do not pose a health risk according to requirements that exceed those laid down by statutory regulations. Since 2010 the GORE Fabrics Division has been a system partner of bluesign® technologies. This means that GORE has introduced the bluesign® standard to all of its garment manufacturing plants worldwide. In addition to rigorously regulating the use of chemicals in products, the bluesign® system also strictly limits emissions to water, air and land and has stringent guidelines concerning the health and safety of employees and the protection of the environment along the entire supply chain. bluesign® certification does not only mean that the bluesign® requirements are met in GORE’s own manufacturing processes, it means that GORE’s fabric suppliers also meet these requirements. Since autumn/winter 2013/14 over 50 % of the total volume of consumer laminates produced by GORE has been certified in accordance with this strict standard. “We work very closely with our suppliers to continue to increase the number of bluesign® certified products,” points out Kiehl.

Life Cycle Assessment: long lifetime of a functional jacket is the most effective means to reduce the environmental impact

GORE has never confined itself to meeting existing product safety and environmental standards. It has always strived to set the standards in research and development. A key project and cornerstone of GORE’s environmental approach is the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach that it adopted in 1992 and has continued to develop since then. LCA (ISO 14041) is a global standard that is used to assess the total environmental influences of a finished product and takes into consideration all ecological factors including the potential impact on health and the ecosystem (“from cradle to grave”). LCA results show that the single most effective means of reducing the environmental impact of functional outerwear is to enhance its product lifetime. “The durability of our fabrics plays a key role in the lifetime of a finished product and therefore also to the efficient use of resources. The durable functionality of our products represents a decisive competitive advantage for us, both ecologically and financially,” concludes Bernhard Kiehl.