When MEC creates a backpack, tent, or pair of running tights, a complex decision-making process happens before that product is available for you to own and use. One of the biggest factors to consider is where to manufacture it.
Some MEC-label products are made within a short drive of our Head Office in Vancouver, BC. Others are made on the opposite side of the world. To help us decide where to make something, we have high standards around quality and value for our members, as well as around transparency and worker well-being for the people who make it.
In the realm of manufacturing, MEC is a small player – in some factories, we make up less than 1% of their total production, and no more than 30% in any factory (like investments, it’s a good idea for businesses to diversify their sources). However, our purchasing volume doesn’t stop us from having an impact and improving the lives of people who make our products.
Around the world
Some countries specialize in developing performance outdoor materials and building a skilled workforce to create outdoor products. The majority of mills producing technical fabrics are in located in Asia, and factories tend to be clustered around these mills. For example, India is the centre of the organic cotton industry, and Vietnam has specialized capacity to make tents and backpacks. Taiwan and China make many of the world’s bikes, and Thailand and China have skilled people to make clothes for extreme conditions. Our Canadian factories make clothes and gear for everyday life and activities like running or biking. We don’t source from any countries that are under sanction from the United Nations or Canadian government.
Choosing our factories
Before a factory begins production, several MEC teams identify if the factory’s overall business aligns with MEC:
Sourcing team: Finds the factories, determines the factories’ capabilities, and makes sure they line up with MEC’s business needs.
- Social responsibility team: Goes over MEC’s requirements and expectations around worker well-being, and sets up an audit to get a benchmark of working conditions at the factory.
- Buying and production teams: After the sourcing and social responsibility teams review the factory, these teams place orders and ensure on-time delivery of quality products.
Once we choose to work with a factory, we audit them regularly. In turn, MEC’s program is monitored by the Fair Labor Association (FLA). The FLA oversees our social responsibility program, looks at our progress to make sure our commitments to workers are happening, and lets us know when we need to make improvements. MEC got full accreditation by the FLA in 2013, and we’re one of only 21 brands in the world to do so.
Other brands at MEC
As a retailer, we also sell other brands – some are recognizable names, others are small independent shops. While we don’t have direct control over the factories other brands choose to work with, we do ask questions and let them know about our expectations about responsible sourcing. We also find ways to work together, since we often share the same suppliers. Sometimes the best way we can influence change for working conditions is to collaborate with other brands.
For more detailed information
If you have questions, please get in touch with our social responsibility team.