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Why we’ve awarded Páramo Best Buy status – Tim Hunt, co-editor of Ethical Consumer magazine


It’s rare to find a company like Páramo. We’ve been rating and ranking companies based on their ethics for over 25 years but not many ‘walk the walk’ in the way that Páramo do. Páramo’s ethics are embedded in every part of its business from products that are ‘designed not to become obsolete’ to the socially responsible factories in which garments are produced. That’s why we have awarded Páramo a Best Buy Label for its waterproof jackets and fleeces.

Our Best Buy is a unique consumer product label that looks in detail at the ethical record of the company behind the product, as well as the environmental and ethical credentials of the product itself. Our research focuses on four main categories – people, animals, politics and environment – plus product sustainability. Unusually, especially for companies in the outdoor gear industry, Páramo scores well across the board.

We believe that our approach, which ranks companies on this broad set of criteria, helps shoppers avoid falling for ethical and environmental claims that turn out to be little more than greenwash. Based on the findings in our product guides, we identify and recommend a number of environmental and ethical Best Buy products in over 150 product categories.

Páramo top of the tree

Páramo fares very well in our ranking system coming top in our guides to waterproof jackets and fleeces and is one of our Best Buy companies. The outdoor gear market in which Paramo operates has been quite slow on the uptake of ethical considerations. It’s a great irony that those who love the outdoors can have such a negative environmental impact through the clothes and kit they buy that help them to enjoy it.

And with policies on workers’ rights in the outdoor market lagging behind other clothing sectors, it’s people, as well as the planet, that pay the price. While scandals about conditions in clothing supply chains have hit the big fashion labels and retailers, prompting change, the outdoor brands have failed to keep up. Páramo’s long term record is refreshing.

A breath of fresh air

Páramo was founded and is still owned by Nick Brown. Nick is also the founder and owner of Nikwax, the first company in the world to produce water-based waterproofing products, to replace solvent-based aerosols, when ozone depletion became a concern in the 1980s.

From our recent guide to waterproof jackets, it’s clear to see that there are few in the outdoor sector making real strides towards producing truly sustainable products. Nick’s companies have never deviated from this environmentally-friendly start and have, unlike other growing businesses, sought to build on these ethical foundations rather than casting them aside in pursuit of quick profit.

The company has a no compromise attitude, not only in environmental and social standards, but also in product performance which really makes the company stand out.

Technical outdoor kit that doesn’t compromise on performance or ethics

In January 2016, Páramo became the first outdoor company to sign up to the Greenpeace Detox commitment and this typified the company’s ongoing commitment to the environment. Easier for Páramo to commit to perhaps than for other companies as they have been testing every batch of fabric for fluorine since 2014, to ensure hazardous perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) have not been applied.

But Páramo’s sector-leading credentials date back much further….

The company has been calculating its primary carbon dioxide emissions since 2007 (many in the outdoor gear sector are failing to do this a decade later), and donating to World Land Trust’s Carbon Balanced Programme to offset these emissions, as well as donating an equivalent amount each year to protect existing rainforest ecosystems in partnership with local communities.

View of one of the ridges, Nangaritza Reserve, Ecuador. ©WLT/NCEcuador

The Miquelina Story

Also fundamental in the company’s history is the manufacturing partnership with the charitable Miquelina Foundation in Colombia, which helps vulnerable women and their families. All Páramo’s waterproofs and fleeces are ethically manufactured here. Thanks to the support of Páramo over more than 20 years, the charity has grown from ‘a small section of a charity that survived on donations to an important source of employment and funding for community projects’. It can now offer training and employment, homes and childcare to women at risk of involvement in drugs and prostitution.

Importantly, all Páramo’s other garment suppliers are covered by a comprehensive code of conduct and have regular audits and factory visits.

The Miquelina Foundation provides employment and training for 400+ vulnerable women each year.

Our recent guide to waterproof jackets also found that Páramo was one of a few companies leading the way on down, a prized commodity for the outdoor equipment industry. Every year, hundreds of tonnes are processed, from millions of ducks and geese. Shockingly, these birds can have their feathers plucked while alive, repeatedly for years – the more you ‘live-pluck’ a bird, the more sought-after is their down for its higher ‘fill-power’. Down and feathers may also come from birds that have been cruelly force-fed for the controversial pate, foie gras. Páramo, you’ll be relieved to hear, don’t use down in any of their products.

And in the future…

This isn’t to say that the company can’t do more and we know they are always striving to improve. Along with many of its competitors in the outdoor gear market, it is still to finalise a cotton-sourcing policy to ensure that it isn’t, for instance, sourcing cotton from Uzbekistan where approximately half of all Uzbek cotton is picked by state-sponsored forced labour.

As the company grows, Ethical Consumer would also expect Páramo to develop more sophisticated social and environmental reporting to deal with inevitably more complex supply chains that occur as production increases. We imagine that these challenges will be tackled with the same innovative thinking and dedication to high social and environmental standards that have earned the company their Best Buy status.

With innovative thinking and dedication Páramo will continue to rise to the challenge.

If you’d like to find out more about the products and services you choose and source other ‘Best Buy’ products, Páramo customers can receive a special discounted subscription to Ethical Consumer (14 months for the price of 12). To qualify simply type “Paramo” in the “Where did you hear about us?” box on the subscription pages.



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