Thursday, May 13, 2021

Oil boss criticizes fleece maker North Face for ‘signaling virtue’

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The familiar ritual of companies giving Christmas gifts to their employees is not usually used for broader cultural and economic battles. But when the CEO of an American oil drilling company was told by The North Face that he couldn’t put his company logo on their jackets, he publicized the fight in a passionate open letter defending his industry. .

The North Face turned down an order from Innovex Downhole Solutions, a Houston-based oil services group, for approximately 400 company-branded North Face jackets, intended to gift to staff.

Adam Anderson, chief executive of Innovex, has been told by The North Face that the order will damage its image, making it the latest outdoor brand to distance itself from the fossil fuel sector.

“They said we didn’t meet their brand criteria,” Anderson said. The North Face did not want to be associated with certain industries and mentioned “alcohol, tobacco and pornography,” he said.

Outraged by the decision, he wrote a four page open letter, with footnotes and graphics, setting out the positive case for fossil fuels, to the director of The North Face’s parent company, VF Corporation. The letter, which is now circulating online among industry supporters, decried the move as a “signal of counterproductive virtue” and argued that the oil and gas industry provided a quality of life “unfathomable ago. is only a century old ”.

The industry has faced a growing public reaction to concerns about climate change and environmental sustainability.

The North Face guidelines – which prohibit certain industries, including firearms and tobacco, from adding branding to its clothing to “protect the integrity of the brand” – do not specifically mention oil and gas companies. However, the clothing maker says promoting renewable energy is part of its corporate mission and has publicly supported the Paris climate agreement and other green initiatives.

North Face declined to respond directly to the Innovex case, but said “it is thoroughly investigating product requests to ensure they closely match our sustainability and protection goals and commitments. of the environment.”

Rival outerwear manufacturers have also taken political positions. Last year, Patagonia stopped allowing financial and Silicon Valley companies, among others, to put their logos on its fleeces. The products had become so popular among tech and finance workers that they spawned their own kind of ‘finance bro’ style memes.

Like North Face, Patagonia said she only wants her clothes to be tied to like-minded businesses.

Mr. Anderson of Innovex said North Face’s move was “ironic” as the jackets themselves are made from petroleum products, and the activities and lifestyle promoted by The North Face and others. Outdoor brands depend – for now at least – on fossil fuels.

“We couldn’t ski, we couldn’t canoe, we couldn’t fly to the different places where people like to travel to enjoy nature without oil,” he said.

North Face said it was looking for ways to reduce its environmental footprint and “ultimately aims to use fully recycled synthetic materials.”

Eddie Bauer, another outerwear company, has agreed to fill the order, Anderson said, and the new Innovex jackets are expected to arrive in time for Christmas.

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