Sweden-based Christiane Dolva is the Head of Sustainability at Fjällräven, a company at the cutting edge of sustainable technologies. With Dolva at the helm, Fjällräven has expanded its use of ethical and sustainable materials across its entire range—including recovered and recycled wool.
Natural materials, including wool, have always been Fjällräven’s preferred choice when developing their products. What is changing, however, is the type of wool they use and the application of it. Fjällräven is committed to expanding its use of recycled, traceable, and recovered wool, while continuing their use of Swedish wool. In fact, Fjällräven is working towards converting their entire wool supply chain to either traceable or recycled/recovered by 2020—that’s pretty impressive.
We chatted with Dolva about her work this week.
SDTC: What was your journey to get to your current position as the Head of Sustainability?
CD: I actually started off studying political science at a university in Norway. During that time I realized that the debates and topics I got most engaged in, both during lectures and late night discussions over a glass of wine, were all related to environmental issues. That is when I decided to look for a masters degree linked to sustainability. I didn’t find one in Norway at the time, but in Sweden at the Stockholm Resilience Center there was a masters called Sustainable Enterprising that suited me perfectly. It combined theory with a lot of hands-on work and contact with business. That combination quickly drew my attention, realizing how much can be done in a company just by working systematically in addressing all sustainability related topics.
After my degree I quickly got into consulting back in Norway, and after a few years I headed back to Sweden and started my own consulting firm together with who is now my husband and another colleague. Through that work I got to work with sustainability in a lot of different industries, ranging from printing presses to ground handling at the airport, and also the outdoor industry. The more I got into the outdoor industry, the more I realized that this was where my passion was. Being able to combine my love for spending time out in nature with my passion for making efficient, result-oriented, sustainable business practices. So I really found my home when I joined Fjällräven. And now, being able to shape our long-term business development in a sustainable direction together with the rest of our management team gets me excited to go to work every day!
What does your job entail?
Every day can be so different, which is what I really love about my job. One week I am at our headquarters trying to provide tools and knowledge to all the engaged and brilliant people we have in our teams, and the next week I can be in Taiwan talking to our most central material suppliers about the value of sustainability for their business. But a day at work when I am in Sweden usually goes like this. I get up quite early, at 5.30 am. I have two kids of ages 5 and 7, so getting up this early gives me 30 minutes of me-time on the yoga mat before the day kicks off with getting them ready for school and preschool. Once they are settled I have almost one hour on the bus to get to the office. It is a long commute but worth the effort since I get to live a bit outside town, on an island in the archipelago with nature as my next-door neighbor. I get a lot of emails done on the bus, so once I get to the office I am ready to start interacting with everyone in our teams.
I usually spend my days in various meetings, with our product developers looking at better material choices or design solutions, with our chemical expert looking at our strict requirements, with our marketing team looking at how to tell our stories and with our management team. So you can say that I have a finger in every jar so to speak. If I am lucky (or disciplined) I’ll take a short run during lunch as well. The hour on the bus back home is good for closing and concluding the day’s efforts. Getting home I have a few hectic hours getting food for the kids and sometimes being able to squeeze in some outdoor time to play with them before it is bedtime. The remaining few hours I try to either just relax with my husband, or get some kind of workout before going to bed.
What are new innovations to the field of sustainability that you’re employing with Fjällräven?
The developments within sustainability are so exciting. For the past 5-8 years it has gone from being all about minimizing negative impact, to a lot more focused on innovations and long-term business development. I love that change. The innovations we are currently focusing on are a lot of innovations when it comes to materials. Not only what fibers the material is made of, but the production process and how to make that more efficient. We have also spent quite a lot of time over the past years looking at innovations in terms of our business model. How can we look at new, innovative ways to grow that perhaps are not as linked to the traditional develop products to sell. I also think it is very exciting to see how some of the new technologies in the digital world can be applied to sustainability to create better transparency, so that is a project we have going now as well.
What is one little known fact about producing sustainable products that may be surprising to most people?
If you just use the garment for twice as long, it will halve the climate impact of the product! We have been working with product durability, timelessness and longevity for ages, but this year research actually came out with quantifiable results on how much it matters that we ensure that the products we make can last for a long time. Everything we do has an impact, so the best thing we can do is to make sure that impact is put to the best use possible.
What do you love most about your career?
It might sound like a cliché but I really love the fact that I can work with inspiring people to spend time in nature. At Fjällräven we focus a lot on that, and you might think that is because then people need and buy our products. But the thing is that the more time you spend in nature, connecting to it, re-connecting, the more likely you are to want to be part of preserving it. That is truly motivating me in everything I do!
Current favorite piece from Fjällräven?
My current favorite piece from Fjällräven is not current at all, it is actually very old. It is a Räven jacket that I got from my grandmother. She bought it in the 70s and has used and loved it for so long, and 4 years ago she handed it to me. It is still fully functional, so it obviously is durable, and we actually do have the same jacket still in our collection today, so it has a timeless design. But the really nice part is that she kept it! So, if you get a Räven jacket today, hopefully your grandchildren can enjoy it just as much in the future.