In #1 2019, Swimrun Life Magazine

ÖTILLÖ Malta 2019 Pierre Mangez
By Nancy Heslin

When Daniel Sand, Dennis Blomberg and Christofer Sundberg launched ARK Sports in 2017, they were “confident we could develop the world’s fastest swimrun equipment”. Yet becoming the first sport company to be 100% dedicated to swimrun was only part of the big picture. “For ARK Sports, it’s absolutely imperative to clearly state our responsibility to the environment and to the athletes trusting us by training and racing using our products,” says Dennis Blomberg, Head of Marketing.

This ethos, shared by ÖTILLÖ cofounders Michael Lemmel and Mats Skott, is what led to a partnership between the two organisations last year.

“Green”, “Sustainable”, “Eco-Friendly” and “Organic” are words that dominate today’s advertisements, making it confusing for consumers to know what they are really buying into. The term greenwashing – defined as “an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly” – was first coined in 1986 by New York environmentalist Jay Westervelt who noted that the hotel industry, in a bid to reduce energy and save the planet, was falsely claiming towels were being reused.

So how do you know if a company is truly “green”? I put the question to ARK’s Daniel Sand, Head of R&D. “To be perfectly honest, you don’t. You have to trust us as manufacturers to live up to what we promise and ARK Sports is committed to being fully transparent with our customers. We have stated what we think is our responsibility and we hope to have our customers’ confidence that we are working hard on reaching our goals.”

Dennis adds, “Our responsibility is to always look for eco-friendly materials and ways for transporting and optimizsng our production processes.”

Some of ARK’s products, like the Blade swimming paddles, are made locally. “We take a lot of pride in the fact that our pull-buoy Pontoon is manufactured using recycled plastic, right here in Sweden,” shares Daniel (pictured).

Daniel ARK design

For the ARK team, there is no such thing as all-in-all eco-friendly neoprene. The company uses Yamamoto premium limestone-based neoprene, just like other brands (Orca, Rōka and NU Compliments). “Unlike petroleum-based products which are cheaper to manufacture, limestone-based neoprene is more environmentally friendly,” explains Daniel, “however, limestone is mined with machines and we have to constantly push our suppliers to use whatever methods they have to mine and manufacture our neoprene in the most environmentally-friendly ways.”

There are organic options out there, like the hevea-based NaturalPrene, but for ARK, “these have to be evaluated thoroughly if they are suitable for the sport of swimrun, as they might lack features present in our current choice of material.”

“We regard using limestone-based neoprene as a step in the right direction but we are not where we want to be,” conveys Daniel. “Wetsuits, regardless of using limestone-based neoprene, still have to be glued in the seams during the manufacturing process and there is a lot of R&D that needs to be done before we can call ourselves 100% eco-friendly, because today we’re simply not.”

As a step in reducing ARK’s environmental footprint, they are continuing their hugely popular rental program initiated at ÖTILLÖ World Series events across 2019 and they actively participate in the “Clean the Ocean” initiatives both within and outside the swimrun community.

Dennis announces, “We are currently in discussions with various partners to build a network where we can gather and recycle wetsuits, as well as silicone products like swim caps. By recycling old products, we can build new types of products. Watch this space for more info.”

Article first published January 2020.

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