Fabrics, trims, and raw materials are the foundation of our mission to build the best product and cause no unnecessary harm. For that reason, Patagonia travels the globe building relationships with the right suppliers – companies that make high-quality materials while reducing their environmental and social impact. Together, we then work to create the technical, environmental and aesthetic innovations that define Patagonia products.
Our search for the best materials starts with our material development team. It is their job to research, develop and approve materials and suppliers by evaluating performance in four key areas: quality, traceability, environmental health and safety, and social responsibility.
Our definition of quality demands that every material we use be durable and functionally fit for its intended use. It requires that our materials resist degradation from wearing and washing, be easy to care for, and are grown or manufactured with care for people and the planet. It insists that every garment is beautiful.
Developers send potential material options to the Patagonia quality testing lab. The lab analyzes and evaluates the material against a set of minimum requirements relevant for its intended use. To ensure the highest quality, lab analysts rely on industry standards, as well as equipment and test methods that we spent years developing. Our fabric laboratory may test as many as 70 material options in order to approve one fabric that meets or exceeds our minimum performance requirements.
We are dedicated to transparency throughout the supply chain. Information about the origin of our materials helps us control quality and assess environmental and social impact.
It is for this reason that we require our suppliers to complete a sourcing questionnaire and map their own supply chains. For every one of our fabrics or trims, we require a profile sheet, a supply chain tracking sheet and all relevant third-party certificates. See our certification requirements for organic cotton.
Environmental Health and Safety
Material supply chains are a significant contributor to Patagonia’s footprint. Large amounts of water, energy and chemicals are needed to make our products, so supplier operations must be managed to safeguard the environment, factory workers and even consumers. To do this, Patagonia publishes its Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) management requirements for material suppliers. These requirements demand general compliance with local laws for manufacturing site operations, and compliance with local regulations for water and air emissions, or with the bluesign® standard limits, whichever is stricter. They also insist on compliance with the robust bluesign standard substances list (BSSL). See the bluesign criteria for textile manufacturers and BSSL.
Patagonia partners with bluesign technologies ag to implement the BSSL and a compliance program within Patagonia’s supply chain. A comprehensive testing matrix and bluesign certification helps suppliers to evaluate their compliance with chemical restrictions, limits and bans that are enforced in the BSSL. These steps protect consumers, and improve wastewater, air emissions and workplaces. Check out the Implementation Milestones for the Patagonia EHS program.
Our Raw Materials Social Responsibility Program is one of the biggest and most important corporate responsibility initiatives we’ve launched since the mid-1990s. That was when we first began to monitor our garment factories for social compliance and helped form the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a nonprofit labor advocacy organization.
The Raw Materials Social Responsibility Program requires that all of our fabric and trims suppliers audit their factories for key social responsibility indicators, such as hiring practices, employee grievance mechanisms, recycling policies and other social and environmental efforts.
The steps for mills to comply with the program are similar to those for the factories that make our finished products.