A few people have been asking about Icebreaker. With a little bit of looking, this lead to one of those classic ‘life is complex when you try and do good’ moments. Icebreaker clothing is now widely available in gear stores throughout Australia, and wool is ‘natural’ – ie not made from petrochemicals, so should stand up well as an environmentally friendly material.
Icebreaker clothing used to be made in NZ, but according to the company, they “couldn’t keep up with the demand as we expanded into global markets, so we carried out a global search for world-class technology and capacity to partner with”. The company says that all it’s offshore producers must met stringent criteria, which are outlined here.
“Our new supply partners are centred around Shanghai but come from all around the world to be based there. It’s a mini United Nations: we have partnered with a French wool blender, a German spinner, a Chinese textile house using Italian plant, a Japanese inspection service, a Chinese quality control company and a German logistics company”.
So, the raw product is sustainable, the off shore producers operate according to workplace and sustainability criteria, but the travel footprint is – seemingly – huge. Although to be fair this is true for many outdoor products where components come from a variety of countries before being assembled.
So on the whole, it does seem that Icebreaker does stack up as a relatively sustainable option for underwear, base layer clothing, socks and other clothing.