Wanted: Circular products

How do we work with circular economy? How do we apply it to our products? To meet the demands of many members, SOG has launched a circular outdoor project together with the development company Peak 63.

Text: Anders Falkirk

Something to consider: people buy twice as many outdoor products as just twenty years ago yet use them for half as long. That’s not sustainable development. Most parties in the outdoor sector, from producers to retail chains, agree this is also something that needs to be addressed. Everyone is coming to roughly the same conclusions: We need to extend the useful life of our products and circular thinking is necessary. This is also something that Scandinavian Outdoor Group’s members want. “Many people are asking about the circular economy and how they can apply it to their own products,” says Per Jonsson Öhlin from SOG. “They ask about know-how, projects, seminars and potential partners.” “In other words, companies that specialize in a circular economy approach, such as rental, vintage sales and repairs.”

Recycling at Bergans of Norway

Picture from recycling at Bergans of Norway

THE HUGE LEVEL of demand resulted in SOG deciding to launch their own project, SOG Circular Outdoors, with the aim of creating a platform for sharing knowledge and experience on the circular economy between brands in the Scandinavian outdoor industry. The start date was May 19th this year and the objective is to launch a pilot project this upcoming autumn. Per Jonsson Öhlin sees it as a three-stage process: Stage 1. Member companies analyze their current situation. Where are they in terms of progress and what are their aims? Stage 2. What are the options available? What sort of help can they get from specialist companies and larger companies within SOG with its almost 70 members? Stage 3. Identifying shared initiatives or projects that will enable them to collectively employ a circular approach and extend the useful life of their products. “10 members are involved in SOG Circular Outdoors right now and we hope to find one or more pilot projects that can serve as a platform for other SOG members to make use of moving forward,” explains Per Jonsson Öhlin from SOG.

BUT HOW DIFFICULT can it be to set up a rental scheme for tents, sleeping bags and other products? Or how do you extend the useful life of a jacket by inserting new zips and re-coating the fabric? Developing new circular services often represents a brand new way of thinking and working with new business models that break the link between increased exploitation of raw materials and profitability. There are many ‘bumps in the road’ in this process, and it can be a big investment. Therefore, many companies are reluctant to get started. “Larger companies within SOG perhaps have resources available to set up a customer service for repairs and second-hand sales, but we also have small-scale companies with just a handful of employees. And for them it’s more difficult,” says Joel Svedlund from development company Peak 63, which is managing the project for SOG. “But whatever the size of the company, we are confident that the project will help our members in a variety of ways to be even more sustainable.”