Your Gear Dollars Could Be Helping Fund the Koch Empire
The Koch Brothers own the company that makes Cordura and its family of durable nylon fabrics, which are ubiquitous throughout the outdoor industry
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Some of the proceeds from your next purchase of a jacket, backpack, or pair of ski pants could help fund Koch Industries, the company run by brothers Charles and David Koch.
The billion-dollar conglomerate is known primarily for its holdings in the fossil-fuel industry, including ownership of oil and natural-gas pipelines, refineries, and a large area of Canada’s Alberta tar sands. And its owners have earned press for their hefty donations to right-wing political candidates who in general support environmental deregulation. As The Guardian reported earlier this week, the Koch brothers are planning to spend a record $400 million to support conservative politicians and agendas during the 2018 midterm elections. Koch Industries also owns Invista, a fabric company whose product lines include Lycra, Coolmax, and Cordura.
You’re probably familiar with these materials from your gear closet. Notoriously tough Cordura fabrics are common in backpacks and outerwear from top gear companies, including Patagonia, Outdoor Research, Topo Designs, North Face, Mammut, and Mountain Hardwear. (The companies we reached out to either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comments before publication.) Meanwhile, Lycra is commonly added to fitness clothing, from yoga apparel and performance jeans to socks and underwear. Coolmax, a wicking synthetic fiber, is found in many running socks.
When it comes to expensive, technical outdoor gear, where durability is paramount, brands and consumers want the best materials available. Yet in this case, the materials come with a catch for some buyers and brands, as the funds ultimately trickle back to two of the most politically influential anti-public-lands figures in the country.
“We never would compromise our environmental or social standards and stand firm behind our sourcing principles,” a Patagonia spokesperson told The Guardian. “But sometimes we end up doing business with companies whose ownership has values very different from our own. We can only hope to inspire them to join us in putting the planet and people ahead of short-term profit.”