There are no UIAA or CE certifications, tests, or requirements for sustainability or eco-friendly efforts in climbing gear. Some companies are measuring, tracking, and reducing their environmental impact, improving worker conditions, and supporting environmental policy efforts. This is often where 3rd parties step in to help verify, track, and provide guidance on improvement opportunities.

Find eco-certified gear:


bluesign logo

The most prominent, stringent, and comprehensive 3rd party certifier is bluesign technologies. Currently Bluesign certifies textiles, like rope fibers, harness materials, and clothing fabrics. They do not certify metals or anodizing processes (nobody does yet).

Bluesign tracks a brands supply chain from raw-materials extraction to the chemical supplier, material manufacturer, assembler, all the way to consumer sales. They evaluate the consumption of materials and energy, the production of wastewater and air emissions, and the handling of hazardous materials, along with worker and consumer health safety. They have a list of 900 toxic chemicals that are completely restricted and they track 12,000+ chemical products from over 190 chemical suppliers.

Bluesign conducts such extensive work that it makes understanding their work rather confusing. There are 3 certifications, one for materials, products, and companies (“system partners”).

bluesign® APPROVED: Is when a material uses non-toxic chemicals and processes in it’s creation. The textile must fully meet the bluesign® CRITERIA which covers strict standards for resource use, occupational health and safety, water and air emissions, and consumer safety.

bluesign® PRODUCT: Must contain at least 90% bluesign® APPROVED materials and they must originate from a bluesign® SYSTEM PARTNER. Why 90% and not 100%? Because metals are not currently certified by Bluesign, and most textile products have zippers or buckles which cannot be certified at this time.

bluesign® SYSTEM PARTNER: A brand that agrees to measure, track, and improve their environmental performance, regularly reporting on energy, water, and chemical usage. Bluesign performs audits and makes improvement suggestions for the brand.

bluesign® SYSTEM PARTNERS as of Dec 2020:

  • adidas (new in 2020)
  • Arc’teryx
  • Edelrid
  • La Sportiva
  • Mammut
  • Nexis Fibers (makers of raw rope materials)
  • REI

Plus apparel brands like: Columbia, Eddie Bauer, Haglofs, Helly Hanson, Mountain Equipment, Mountain Hardware, NEMO, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, Prana, Royal Robbins, Salomon, Burton, The North Face, Thule, VAUDE. 

Edelrid became a Bluesign system partner in 2009 (the first climbing company to do so), and 100 percent of their dynamic ropes are bluesign® PRODUCT’s. They also use bluesign®APPROVED materials in most of their harnesses. 2021 Update: Most of Edelri’s harnesses are now bluesign® PRODUCT’s which means they are made of 90%+ bluesign®APPROVED materials.

Mammut’s ropes are also bluesign® PRODUCT’s and many of their clothing options are too.

Arc’teryx, La Sportiva, and REI use many bluesign®APPROVED materials, primarily in their apparel offerings.

There are other 3rd party certifiers available, although no organization is as extensive, particularly in the chemistry used to create products, as Bluesign.


Fair Wear Foundation logo

The Fair Wear Foundation is fighting for a more ethical garment industry. For brands that partner with them, they have 8 Primary Labor Standards that are evaluated by local audit teams.

  1. Employment is freely chosen
  2. There is no discrimination in employment
  3. No exploitation of child labour
  4. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining
  5. Payment of living wage
  6. Reasonable hours of work
  7. Safe and healthy working conditions
  8. Legally binding employment relationship

Assessments of these 8 standards are made though offsite and onsite interviews with workers, document inspections, and health and safety inspections. The final assessment and recommendations are given to the brand and to the factory managers, who then create a concrete action plan with timeframes, to resolve any issues. Fair Wear checks in on the status and creates reports. Often the brands create their own reports as well, and the most transparent brands publish this data.

Mammut Social Report Fair Wear Foundation
This is an excerpt of learnings from Mammut’s 2017 Social Report. Mammut is forefront on this endeavor and they should be applauded for their tracking efforts and transparency about their supply chain.

In 2019, three climbing gear companies work with the Fair Wear Foundation:

  • Mammut
  • Salewa
  • Wild Country

EMAS logo

EMAS is the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme which helps organizations to improve their environmental performance and go beyond minimum legal compliance. EMAS requires an environmental policy is made, measured through high-quality reporting, and that goals are set and pursued – all of this is validated by EMAS through audits.

EMAS expects companies to track the use of resources, resource reduction, and waste management. EMAS also dives into core indicators like air emissions, including greenhouse gases, energy use, water use and biodiversity, among other categories.

Note: It’s currently unclear to us if this certification is only available for EU members. In the UK this certification is IEMA.

EMAS data screenshot
This is a screenshot of Edelrid’s 2018 Environmental Statement report. This report includes data that is certified by EMAS. Edelrid has the most comprehensive tracking when it comes to environmental resources/impact, of any climbing company we’ve seen.

As of 2019, only one climbing company is part of EMAS:

  • Edelrid

one percent for the planet logo

1% For the Planet is a certifying company that ensures that a company/brand name/product line is donating at least 1% of gross sales (and/or up to 50% in volunteer hours) each year to approved nonprofit partners. Since inception in 2002, 1% for the Planet has certified more than $225 million in support to approved environmental nonprofits from 1,800+ partners.

In 2020, two climbing gear companies had 1% for the Planet ensure they’re giving at least 1% back:

  • La Sportiva
  • Beta Climbing (chalk)

Climate Neutral logo

Climate Neutral is a certification company co-founded by the Peak Designs CEO and BioLite CEO. Climate Neutral certified companies measure their carbon footprint throughout their entire supply chain, set goals for how to reduce it, and then pay to offset their current carbon footprint via carbon credits.

Clearly the goal is not just to pay off environmental abuse through carbon credits. The goal is to work towards becoming climate neutral, while offsetting the difference in the meantime. Their Kickstarter campaign summed up Climate Neutral as the “new minimum standard for sustainability.”

As of 2019 there are no climbing gear brands that are certified Climate Neutral Brands.


Conservation Organizations

Below you’ve find [climbing] organizations that are working towards conserving the environment and protecting climbing areas. These are conservation organizations and not 3rd party certifiers. We decided to list them here because we believe they’re doing the most impactful work when it comes to the environment, policy, and climbing.


Access Fund logo

The Access Fund is not a certifying body, but they an organization that is specifically focused on keeping climbing areas open and to conserve the environment. Since 2001 the Access Fund has focused on climbing policy and advocacy, local support and mobilization, land acquisition and protection, risk management and landowner support, bolt replacement programs, and education.

2019 Access Fund corporate members include (in order of monitory contribution):

  • REI
  • Black Diamond
  • La Sportiva
  • Five Ten
  • Petzl
  • Sterling Ropes
  • Trango
  • Metolius
  • Arc’teryx
  • Mammut
  • Omega Pacific
  • SCARPA
  • BlueWater Ropes
  • CAMP
  • Maxim Ropes
  • Liberty Mountain
  • Mad Rock
  • Moosejaw

 


conservation-alliance-logo

The Conservation Alliance is not a certification company, but it is a nice bonus to support. So far (in 2019) the Conservation Alliance and it’s members have helped protect 51 million acres, 3,107 river miles, removed or halted 34 dams, purchased 14 climbing areas & designated 5 marine reserves.

2019 Conservation Alliance members include:

  • adidas / Five Ten
  • Arc’teryx
  • Black Diamond
  • La Sportiva
  • Mammut
  • Petzl
  • REI

eoca logo

The European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) is not a certification company, but it is a nice bonus to support. It is a conservation organization that was formed by the European outdoor industry and brings together outdoor companies to support environmental projects. EOCA supports 50+ projects in 30+ countries, repairing footpaths, protecting wilderness, planting trees, and removing trash.

2019 EOCA members include:

  • AKU
  • Arc’teryx
  • Black Diamond
  • CAMP
  • Edelrid
  • Grivel
  • La Sportiva
  • Lowa
  • Mammut
  • Singing Rock
  • Tendon

Summary

The companies listed above are going beyond the “average” in their efforts to protect the environment and their workers. Sometimes it’s frustrating to look at reports that show an increase in waste or less-than-perfect working conditions. The truth is, that the companies measuring and reporting their efforts are the ones actively working towards making a difference. Their are many companies that still have no idea what their true impacts on the environment and workers are in their global supply chain.

We should encourage all companies to measure their impact and then to make these learnings publicly available. And we should applaud those that are transparent about their sustainability goals and progress towards them. The more constructive our support can be in an effort to improve, the more companies will be willing to take steps forward.

We have been in the room when outdoor companies talk about their fear of publishing reports as the reports don’t show “perfect” results. This makes sense. As a consumer, it’s hard not to expect more. When I read a label that says, “90% organic cotton” my first question is, “What about the other 10%?” Really, I should be getting STOKED that this garment has 90% organic cotton because that is 90% better than the majority of other companies out there. And, at the same time, I can be supportive in my excitement for the company getting to 100% organic cotton too.

We can do this together. We can buy more often from sustainable companies, we can encourage retailers to sell brands and products that are particularly sustainable, and we can cheer the companies who are making efforts to create more sustainable gear.


Please let us know in the comments if you feel we’re missing any certifications or certifying bodies so we can add them to this post. 

If you’d like to list any local climbing coalitions or other groups and their donor members in the comments, that’d also be welcome! 

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Alison Dennis

Alison Dennis

Alison (she/her) runs WeighMyRack from her 17' travel trailer. She is currently touring the US and would love if you contacted her to meet up to talk about climbing, climbing gear, or if you have any fun and/or ridiculous adventure in mind.

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