Columbia is an American maker and retailer of outdoor clothing brands, making jackets, boots, gloves, and many more. However, Columbia does have its share of issues and controversies, making people wonder if it is worth supporting. Is Columbia a good brand?
Generally, you can assume Columbia Sportswear is a good brand. It may not be 100% sustainable and eco-friendly, but Columbia is working hard and taking huge steps to reach it. Columbia’s products also have a reputation for being high-quality and long-lasting. Columbia is also improving in paying fair wages to its employees.
This article explores if Columbia is a good brand. It will start by trying to understand why Columbia is popular with many people and exploring its quality.
We then examine how sustainable Columbia is and if Columbia treats its employees and workers well. Finally, we explore if Columbia harms animals.
What Is Columbia Sportswear?
Columbia is an American maker and retailer of active apparel, footwear, and gear. It is based in Cedar Mill, Oregon. It is very popular for its line of jackets, boots, and ski gear and is one of the biggest companies in its category. Its competitors include brands such as The North Face, Patagonia, and Jack Wolfskin.
Columbia Sportswear was founded in 1938 by Paul Lamfrom. He fled the persecution from Nazi Germany and settled down in the US, buying a hat shop. Columbia was then taken over by the daughter, Gert Boyle, who grew it into the multinational outdoor maker it is today.
Columbia offers mostly apparel in their lineups, such as jackets, shirts, pants, hats, backpacks, shoes, and outdoor gear. These products were then separated between men, women, and children. You may also find sports-related products such as golf, fishing, and skiing.
Columbia currently distributes its products in over 72 countries worldwide, with 13,000 retailers. Columbia also owns three other subsidiary brands. They are SOREL, Mountain Hardware, and PrAna.
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Why Do People Love Columbia?
Columbia is popular and well-loved because they have great product quality. The company is also committed to sustainability and the environment and improving its transparency. Columbia also supports paying their workers fair wages and actively donating to social service bodies.
When looking into the ethos of Columbia Sportswear, these are the core values that it subscribes to:
- Enjoy An Active Lifestyle
- Compete To Win
- Relentless Improvement
- Culture of Honesty, Respect, and Trust
- Doing The Right Thing For Customers, Employees, Company, and Community
You may see some of these core values translated into real life in many ways. This helps Columbia become one of the world’s largest outdoor sportswear makers.
Great Product Quality
Columbia is known for making high-quality, simple products. These products are made with the concept of making them last and not as fast fashion items. It is common to see a simple pair of Columbia shoes worn for many years.
Columbia’s products also get good reviews from customers. If you check for the reviews of their products on Amazon or online, you may see good customer feedback and response. Columbia is also worn by athletes such as Bubba Wallace and is an official sponsor of many ultra-trail running events worldwide.
Committed to Sustainability and Environment
Being an outdoor goods maker, Columbia strongly advocates sustainability and environmental protection. It has implemented many programs and plans to reduce carbon emissions and source recycled materials to make its products.
Columbia is also committed to investing in technologies to reduce the use of harmful chemicals and materials in its products and use 100% recyclable materials for its packaging.
Committed to Transparency
Columbia is a listed company trading on the New York Stock Exchange. This means you can also check out their performance as a corporation through their annual report. Aside from their annual financial report, you can also read reports such as Environmental, Social, and Governance Report,
Implementing Fair Wages
Columbia is a company that is making strides to improve the treatment of its workers, be it in the US or outside. It is a member of many international labor organizations, such as the Fair Labor Association and ChetCo.
Columbia is also working on improving its workers’ working conditions and income by supporting fair trade merchants and paying more of its workers a living wage.
Columbia also actively provides donations and funds to support social services and disaster relief bodies, such as American Red Cross, UNICEF, Mercy Corps, and OXFAM.
Columbia is also a proponent of social justice, attempting to improve diversity and inclusion in its workplace. It publishes a yearly report to indicate how they are progressing on this front in their annual report.
Is Columbia Sustainable?
Columbia may not be sustainable now, but they are improving and are seen to show effort to better their sustainability. They are working on many initiatives, such as reducing carbon emissions, improving products using more recyclable materials, and reducing energy use using recycled materials instead.
One of the best ways to observe a company or body’s sustainability performance is to look at its operations, products, and packaging. Columbia is actively working to improve their sustainability ratings on all three fronts.
In general, Columbia’s products use only organic cotton in their products as a way to reduce chemical use and practices that may harm the soil on cotton farms. Columbia also recycles cotton for reuse in their products, although the exact figure is not disclosed.
Unlike Patagonia, many of Columbia’s products are made using synthetic materials, such as polyester and nylon. These synthetic materials are not as easily recycled as cotton, so Columbia may need to improve further in this area.
Columbia is working on increasing the number of fair-trade merchants it sources from. This means Columbia may have to pay more for these products. However, the merchants’ additional income will be reinvested into projects to improve workers’ conditions and pay them a living wage.
As a result, you may assume that Columbia is actively taking strides in promoting dignified work and responsible entrepreneurship and against exploiting workers.
Take Back Program
Columbia has also worked with I:CO to launch Rethread. Rethread is a program that takes back old textile products to a new lease of life by recycling them. Customers usually drop off their old clothes in exchange for shopping vouchers.
Columbia may then take these old clothing and recycle them to reduce energy use and produce new materials.
Columbia is working actively to improve its packaging by making them sustainable in two major ways:
Recyclable Packaging Materials
Columbia uses around 100% of recycled content to make their shipping and shoeboxes. The tissue inside their shoebox, as well as their hang tags, are also made from 50% recycled content.
Actively Encouraging Recycling
Columbia also actively encourages its customers to recycle their boxes and items. This is done through active campaigns on traditional and social media, as well as placing reminders in product packaging.
Greenhouse Gasses Emissions
Columbia is actively working on reducing carbon emissions. This is done by using more recycled materials rather than producing new ones. Columbia is also active in many initiatives, such as the Carbon Leadership Project and Sustainable Apparel Coalition. These initiatives help Columbia to identify sources of carbon emissions and how to reduce them.
Columbia is committed to reducing 30% greenhouse gasses emissions by 2030. From 2019 to 2020, Columbia reported that its emissions dropped by 12%. This is credited to their effort to increase renewable energy use.
Columbia reported in 2020 that water consumption has dropped by 556,325 cubic meters due to using recycled water in their production plants. In 2020, Columbia mentioned that 19% of its manufacturing facilities use recycled water.
Water use is projected to go down further as Columbia increases its usage of recycled materials.
Columbia has not made much effort to reduce chemical use in its products. In fact, Columbia is known as one of those companies that practices tariff engineering. This means Columbia may add chemicals that serve no use to the product as long as they get lower tariff rates.
Does Columbia Treat Its Employees Well?
Columbia is also improving its treatment of workers by ensuring better working conditions and paying more of their workers living wages. Columbia is also actively working with its manufacturers to have an ethical labor policy. Executives also enjoy working in Columbia, with many leaving positive reviews on Glassdoor.
Workers refer to personnel producing products for Columbia, such as their assembly line workers and product delivery people. These workers may work directly under Columbia as under their manufacturing partners.
Columbia tries to ensure that all its workers, direct or indirect, are given a safe workspace and paid a living wage; Columbia does this by first sourcing its materials from fair-trade merchants, meaning that these workers are likely to be working in safer conditions and receiving better pay.
Columbia also actively works with its partners to ensure they fulfill international labor standards.
Executives are personnel who help manage the company’s daily operations, such as managers, retail assistants, or procurement officers.
When reviewing the feedback for Columbia at Glassdoor, it seems that most executives are giving the company positive feedback, with 68% of the executives recommending people to work for the company. Out of 5 stars, Columbia scores 3.7
This may not be an excellent rating, but a fair one. The positive feedback ranges from good work culture, and supportive colleagues and managers. The negative responses tend to mention high pressure to achieve targets.
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Does Columbia Harm Animals?
Columbia, in general, does not harm animals in their operations. Columbia sources wool, feathers, and downs from sustainable and non-cruel suppliers. Patagonia also does not use angora, real fur, or any skins from exotic animal skin. Columbia also does not test their products on animals.
In general, Columbia does not use animal parts in their products. If they do, they are cruelty-free. Columbia does not use angora, fur, or skins from exotic animals. The wool is also cruelty-free.
The feathers and downs are sourced from suppliers certified with the Responsible Downs Standard, meaning these feathers and downs are also cruelty-free. Columbia does use some leather and suede in their products, but these are obtained in animal-cruel-free methods.
Columbia was also fast to react when instances of animal cruelty were discovered. In 2018, PETA exposed how mohair was sheared from goats in South Africa. The methods used were cruel. As a result, Columbia banned and stopped using mohair in its line of products.