Published 3 weeks ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Jones Snowboards
The certification signifies attention to worker empowerment, fair wages and
more; but whether it will galvanize competitors and partners to make such a
commitment remains to be seen.
Ethical snowboard, winter apparel and backcountry gear brand Jones
Snowboards recently announced that beginning
this year, its snowboards and splitboards would be Fair Trade
Certified — marking something of a
milestone for a certification largely used by apparel and food manufacturers.
For hard goods, Fair Trade certification primarily focuses on factory standards
and worker empowerment — ensuring that those making the products are treated
fairly, equitably and paid a living wage.
As founder Jeremy Jones
said in a
“Our boards are known for their performance and responsible manufacturing
standards, but what is not as well known is that we hold all our factory
partners to the highest social responsibility standards. Achieving Fair Trade
Certification honors our longstanding commitment to the people who manufacture
This isn’t Jones’ first foray into more thoughtful manufacturing: The company
runs both its manufacturing operations and its Truckee, California
headquarters on 100 percent solar
throughout its product portfolio; completed a lifecycle assessment on its
in 2020; and is now upcycling old snowboards into new through its Re-Up
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For the Fair Trade Certification process, Jones and its factory partner,
SWS (both owned by Switzerland-based Nidecker
Group), had to meet standards in seven
specific areas: empowerment, fundamental rights at work, conditions of
employment for workers, occupational health and safety, environmental
responsibility, management transparency and traceability, and internal
The certification applies directly to SWS’ factory in Dubai where it
produces snowboards, along with hard goods for a few other brands. According to
Fair Trade USA, the process took 6-9 months through a good chunk of 2023 —
which is relatively fast, according to the organization.
“We felt there was an appetite (for certification) for hard-goods factories, and
were excited that Jones and SWS were eager to enter into this,” Fair Trade
senior brand partnership development manager Lauren
Tolbert told Sustainable Brands®
For every purchase of a Fair Trade Certified Jones product, a portion of the
proceeds goes to a Community Development Fund to support factory employees' most
pressing community needs — including education, child care and healthcare. SWS
installed an employee-elected Fair Trade Committee that will manage the
Community Development Fund and vote on how the funds are used.
"SWS has been an audited member of Sedex — one of the world’s leading ethical-trade membership organizations for businesses committed to the continuous improvement of ethical performance within their supply chains — for many years; however, this organization is not recognized by consumers," SWS Board Technology Sustainability Officer Renske Visser told SB. "We were, therefore, looking for an accredited certification that would be respected and valued by the end-user of our manufactured products — and Fair Trade USA matched this requirement."
However meaningful the achievement, it seems the industry appetite may have been
overestimated — at least on the brand side.
“We’re super happy to see Jones do that; but paying for Fair Trade certification
would be somewhat redundant to what the EU already
Fischer Sports content marketing manager
Jonathan Jay told SB.
“It remains to be seen if this will move the needle,” adds Andrew
Couperthwait, VP of
Head USA’s alpine division — who notes that for
now, this is more of an incentive for the retailer than the consumer; and he’s
not sure how much the alpine consumer will care for now.
Which isn’t to say the winter-sports industry isn’t putting sustainability front
and center in other ways: For example, Burton — the industry’s largest snowboard
brand, which declined to comment for this story — recently renewed its B Corp
Brands such as Rossignol are releasing recycled
Outdoor Industry Association brands are working to decarbonize their
and resorts such as Vail are also shifting to 100 percent
But these efforts focus firmly on the environmental aspect of sustainability;
and that raises the question of whether attention to the social aspect is likely
to rise to meet it — and whether it can, due to the sheer number of audit and
compliance mechanisms already keeping the industry’s environmental impacts in
check. So, it will remain to be seen if other hard-goods companies will widen
their focus to embrace certifications such as Fair Trade, versus continuing to
focus their efforts on protecting the outdoor environments where their products
Either way, the achievement is a good next step for an industry that’s heavily
reliant on both social and environmental health. What Jones’ achievement does do
is open up a conversation and a new pathway — especially for smaller brands that
could benefit from the boost of an association with Fair Trade Certified.
Jones’ Fair Trade Certified 2024/25 snowboards and splitboards will be available
for sale in August 2024.
Published Feb 8, 2024 2pm EST / 11am PST / 7pm GMT / 8pm CET
Geoff is a freelance journalist and copywriter focused on making the world a better place through compelling copy. He covers everything from apparel to travel while helping brands worldwide craft their messaging. In addition to Sustainable Brands, he's currently a contributor at Penta, AskMen.com, Field Mag and many others. You can check out more of his work at geoffnudelman.com.