A growing list of companies are bowing to pressure from climate-change groups to stiff-arm the oil-and-gas industry, but as far as Adam Anderson is concerned, The North Face shouldn’t be one of them.
Mr. Anderson, CEO of Innovex Downhole Solutions in Houston, went public last week after The North Face rejected an order for 400 jackets with the Innovex logo because, as he told CBS7 in Midland, “we were an oil-and-gas services company.”
The denial came even though the vast majority of The North Face hoodies, coats, gloves, snow pants and other apparel, as well as tents and backpacks, are made with nylon, polyester and polyurethane — all of which come from petroleum. Fleece jackets are also polyester.
“The irony in this statement is that your jackets are made from the oil and gas products the hardworking men and women of our industry produce,” Mr. Anderson said in a letter on LinkedIn to The North Face CEO Steve Rendle. “I think this stance by your company is counter-productive virtue-signaling, and I would appreciate you re-considering this stance.”
With the exception of gasoline stations, there may be no industry in the world more dependent on fossil fuels than outdoor recreation, and yet The North Face is hardly alone. Patagonia for years has supported anti-fracking causes despite its heavy reliance on petroleum products for its apparel.
Seeking to stifle their own suppliers would appear to be a poor business model for the companies, but there is a certain political as well as financial logic behind it.
Both The North Face and Patagonia cater to younger buyers, who are more likely than their elders to be climate-woke, making the outdoor industry that much more susceptible to the environmental movement’s ongoing attack on the oil-and-gas industry’s bottom line and public image.
Examples abound. All six major U.S. banks have ruled out financing oil-and-gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with Bank of America coming on board last month, amid political pressure from environmental organizations.
The Sierra Club, part of the Don’t Fund Arctic Drilling campaign, has made it clear that its goals extend beyond ANWR.
“We know, however, that preventing further climate chaos means that banks have to go far beyond just ending funding for Arctic drilling, or coal, or even tar sands,” Ben Cushing, senior campaign representative of Sierra’s Financial Advocacy campaign, said in a Dec. 1 post. “We have to #StopTheMoneyPipeline going from Wall Street to the fossil fuel industry for good.”
The Trump administration swung back last month with a proposed rule proposed to block financial institutions from boycotting entire industries, saying that those “involved in politically controversial but lawful businesses … are entitled to fair access to financial services under the law.”
Other opponents of the attempt to cancel the fossil fuel industry have been quick to call out climate hypocrisy.
The Swedish teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg famously refused to fly to New York last year over concerns about emissions, opting instead to sail on a carbon-fiber yacht, made possible by petrochemicals, as climate skeptics noted.
Climate Depot founder Marc Morano, who recently released the film “Climate Hustle 2,” called The North Face incident “a prime example of a company pandering to the corporate woke trend.”
“The hypocrisy of North Face refusing to do business with an industry that is essential to their product is breathtaking,” Mr. Morano said. “If North Face wants to prove their stance is more than virtue signaling, they should refuse to sell their clothing to any customers who are employed in any fossil fuel company. Or how about refusing to sell to any customers who used fossil fuels to travel to and from their stores? If not, why not?”
The Washington Times has reached out to The North Face and Innovex for comment.
In a statement to Financial Times, The North Face said it “thoroughly investigates product requests to ensure they align closely with our goals and commitments surrounding sustainability and environmental protection.”
Even so, other executives said they were struck by the double-standard in comments in a Monday article about the episode in Retail Wire.
“Wow. This is absolutely astonishing,” said Oliver Guy, senior director for industry solutions at Software AG. “Given that every product The North Face sells can trace its supply chain back oil I personally find this hugely hypocritical.”
Others suggested that The North Face was being petty, given that Innovex was requesting only a few hundred jackets as Christmas presents for employees.
“This move by The North Face is a drop in an ocean of challenges facing the world as we combat climate change,” said Dave Bruno, Aptos director of retail market insights. “While I applaud the intent and the message, I suspect the blowback criticisms of ‘greenwashing’ and ‘hypocrisy’ will endure far longer than the message intended by the action itself.”
While acknowledging that “many of our products are made from polyester and nylon, both of which are made from petroleum,” Patagonia noted on its website that some of its products are made from recycled polyester and nylon.
“In the end, our current reliance on fossil fuel including natural gas, particularly for electricity and transportation, makes it all the more important to advocate for and support a shift to renewable energy sources (e.g. solar, wind and geothermal) and conservation,” the Patagonia statement said.
Mr. Anderson, who said he was told The North Face wanted to avoid supporting the industry “in the same way as it did not support the porn industry or Big Tobacco,” took the opportunity to defend the oil-and-gas industry as “essential to human flourishing.”
“The work of my company and our industry more broadly enables humans to have a quality of life and life expectancy that were unfathomable 150 years ago,” Mr. Anderson said in his letter.
He credited fossil fuels with providing low-cost, abundant, reliable energy for much of the world, and noted that U.S. emissions have declined about 14% in the last decade, largely as a result of the move from coal to natural gas in the electricity grid.
“We should be celebrating the benefits of what oil and gas do to enable the outdoors lifestyle your brands embrace,” Mr. Anderson wrote. “Without Oil and Gas there would be no market for nor ability to create the products your company sells.”