The Change Agent - Climbing Magazine

The Change Agent

Ever since she started snowboarding in high school, CLAIRE GIBSON knew she’d do whatever it’d take to get a foot into the outdoor industry. But she’s not just in it for the powder days. This twentysomething is out to change the world.
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CLAIRE GIBSON’S HANDS are in the early stages of the production process for nearly everything Marmot makes. She’s leading the charge to work with greener factories, use safer chemicals, and select more durable fabrics. Her goal? Exceed industry standards for sustainability.

The fashion and textile industries are two of the worst in the world when it comes to harming the environment—some have pegged fashion as second only to oil—but if you ask Gibson, it doesn’t have to be that way. She’s on a mission to set a higher standard for corporate responsibility. Take Marmot’s new EVODry line of rain shells and pants, which Gibson says turns all other eco-friendly DWRs on their heads. The upcycled fabric’s water repellency is bonded to the yarn fibers so it never has to be reapplied—and the new color process uses 85 percent less dye.

We don’t want a gold star for going the extra mile to make more sustainable clothes, Gibson says. We have to do this. It’s not even an option anymore to ignore our environmental impact.

On any given day, Gibson gets to the office early—armed with as much coffee as she can carry—to shoot emails back and forth with production teams in Asia, meet with materials vendors, and make sure the designers at their Santa Rosa, Calif., office have sustainable fabric samples. Gibson also makes sure the brand seeks long-term solutions that don’t end with sending less durable products to the landfill.

On top of all of that, Gibson is managing Marmot’s efforts to get bluesign product-level certification. “If the brand has two options for production and one’s a bluesign factory and the other’s not, we want that bluesign mill every single time,” she says. There are certain fabrics Marmot simply won’t use because of their environmental impact—regardless of how well they stand up to the elements. She recently secured Responsible Down Standard certification, ensuring all down is traceable and sourced responsibly.

Claire is tireless in her pursuit of sustainable solutions, says Brian Thompson, vice president of design and development for Newell Brands Technical Apparel. We really want to be on the leading edge of brands in the outdoor space in terms of reducing our footprint, and Claire can help us get there.

Gibson is the first person to hold an official sustainability-related position at Marmot and ExOfficio, and she’s working on making the brands some of the first to incorporate letter grades on hangtags that score products on how eco-friendly they are. Think of it like nutrition facts, but for water usage, PFCs and other harmful chemicals, and carbon footprint. That would be groundbreaking, and Thompson says he thinks Gibson has the potential to be a leader at the forefront of the whole industry.

She originally set out to get a marketing degree in college, but quickly realized her passion wasn’t in selling stuff—it was in setting the bar higher for companies she knew could do more to protect the natural environments they rely upon so much. Without a healthy environment, there’s no place for you to use that high-end jacket. So, she started doing research on the Higg Index, which many outdoor gear companies use to evaluate their practices and make them greener. Now, she uses it at work to find ways her own company can get better. We’ve come leaps and bounds, Gibson says.

Stay dry in the wettest conditions with Marmot’s EVODry – rainwear reinvented at the molecular level. www.marmot.com

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