Life Cycle Assessment identifies “durability” as key influencing factor in reducing the environmental impact of functional outerwear

• W.L. Gore & Associates (GORE) publishes Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) results for the first time for functional outerwear covering the entire value chain
“from cradle to grave”

• Research cooperation with the Öko-Institut Freiburg and the Institute for Environmental Research, Vashon, WA, USA

• Research shows that the longer a functional outdoor jacket lasts, the smaller its annual environmental impact will be

• Results will support further standard development and implementation in the outdoor industry driven by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition

Feldkirchen-Westerham, 12 July 2013 – W.L. Gore & Associates’ Fabrics Division announces the latest findings of its Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is the global standard for assessing the total environmental impact of a finished product and takes into account all aspects of a product’s ecological footprint including resource and energy consumption, emissions to air, water and land as well as health and ecosystems. LCA is widely used in industry, by governments and NGOs.

GORE Fabrics has been using LCA since 1992 as its ecological accounting system and was one of the first in its industry to perform full “cradle-to-grave” LCA – from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance to disposal or recycling.

The latest LCA results provide quantitative data that enabled Gore Fabrics to measure the extent of a product’s environmental impact at each step of its life cycle. GORE evaluated the environmental impact of a durable waterproof, windproof and breathable GORE-TEX jacket used for five years. The results, published for the first time by GORE, show that during its entire lifetime the GORE-TEX jacket emits a total of 72.7 kg of CO2-eq., consumes 2.08 m3 of fresh water and 992 MJ of primary energy, the equivalent of 29 liters of petrol. To put it in perspective: for a pair of jeans 32.3 kg and of CO2 eq. are emitted over its entire lifetime, but multiple pairs may need to be purchased during the lifetime of a GORE-TEX jacket and jeans provide little to no protection to the user.

Besides this, the main findings of the study point out that production and distribution account for around two thirds of the product’s Global Warming Potential (GWP). Consumer care, at 35% of total GWP, also has a significant impact, while the impact of the jacket’s disposal is negligible. In other words: the longer a GORE-TEX jacket lasts, the smaller its annual environmental impact will be.

Focusing on lifetime, the study proves that the impact of longevity on the annual ecological impact is such that the jacket’s life time is the single most influential factor in improving several environmental impacts. Bernhard Kiehl, Fabrics Division Sustainability Team: “The LCA findings clearly demonstrate that the best way to minimize the environmental footprint of outerwear products is to enhance their durable performance and thus their longevity. This is why quality, durability and performance are the three cornerstones of our GORE-TEX products.”

The LCA study was carried out with input from third party experts. For instance, the Öko-Institut Freiburg advised GORE on questions of methodology and data-sets. Martin Möller, deputy head of the Institute’s Sustainable Products & Material Flows division: “The cooperation between GORE Fabrics and the Öko-Institute Freiburg is based on our shared commitment to sound science. The recent LCA study systematically measures the environmental impact of outerwear products and thus provides GORE with profound data to optimize the relevant leavers within their entire supply chain”. The report was also peer reviewed by an independent body: the Institute for Environmental Research, in Vashon, WA.

GORE Fabrics strives to reduce the overall impact of its outerwear products through a mindful choice of fabrics and suppliers, through cooperation with the upstream and downstream textile supply chain and through active engagement with customers to promote the right type and frequency of care.

Furthermore, GORE Fabrics’ LCA expertise will contribute to its long-term cooperation with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). An industry-wide group of over 80 leading apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers, nonprofits, and NGOs working to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products around the world. “We appreciate Gore sharing LCA results as they allow the partners in the value chain – including the consumer – to understand their environmental impact and how to improve. These data for functional outerwear will be valuable input to the Sustainable Apparel’s work to improve environmental product assessments and shape future versions of the Higg Index. By that we seek to make the measure of environmental performance scalable to a wide variety of products and catalyse substantial improvements”, says Jason Kibbey, Executive Director of SAC.

Read more about LCA here.