In a world where too many energy executives seem ashamed of what they do for a living, Chris Wright of Liberty Energy stands out. As in out of the herd. And out of doors. Because after the marquee outdoor clothing firm The North Face refused to make logoed jackets for an oil and gas firm, Wright thanked them… for basing their entire business on petroleum products. Though perhaps they’re now The Red Face since apparently they had no idea where polyester and other synthetic fibres come from. Perhaps they thought there were Gortex trees in the rainforest. Just because you say you love nature doesn’t mean you know anything about it.
For instance, as Wright explains, globally 60 percent of all clothing fibres are made from oil and gas. And for North Face, he says, it’s almost certainly much higher. Indeed “I went through North Face’s website of wide-ranging products, and I failed to find a single product that wasn’t made from oil and gas.”
In a way it’s not a takedown. He explains that North Face uses synthetics in so many of its offerings, from jackets to backpacks to shoes, “simply because they make premium, high-performance products.” But of course in another way it is, and a devastating one, because he adds that it’s not just the raw materials.
Their manufacturing network, distribution system and sales outlets “are also large consumers of gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane, jet fuel” and so on. And they apparently don’t know it. One is tempted to invoke the Far Side cartoon of a horrified cow going “Hey, wait a minute! This is grass! We’ve all been eating grass!” Except here it’s gas.
It is a safe bet that their customers are equally clueless. After all, while all sorts of people like high-performance outdoor gear including those employees of that other oil and gas company, the core “branding” client is trendily all in on ecology and climate. Like the users of skis, snowboards and wakeboards, kayaks, canoes, sailboats and he could go on and on. And does, adding climbing gear such as reliable ropes. You won’t catch these hipsters climbing with brittle, heavy hemp. Or lugging a cotton sleeping bag up a hill in a canvas backpack. Or water in a metal canteen; no, it’s polypropylene or lightweight white gas to melt snow.
Wright’s video is short, just three minutes and thirty seconds. Yet in it he also manages to point out that North Face is far from alone. All major manufacturers and retailers are energy-intensive and while, as he notes, they might have the virtue-signaling natural-gas fireplace in corporate HQ, “where North Face does go the extra mile” is that to use their products, you also generally have to drive a fair distance. And have the prosperity to have leisure time. And, quite possibly, a plane ticket to that dream unspoiled venue.
Having stuck the dagger in, he twists it deftly, concluding “So North Face is not only an extraordinary customer of the oil and gas industry, they’re also a partner with the oil and gas industry in bringing the great outdoors within reach of so many. So thank you, North Face. And you’re welcome. Onward and upward.”
OK, he finished with a smirk. But who can blame him? After all, it’s customers who make paydays possible. And The North Face and its customers make lots of oil and gas paydays happen. The scary thing is that they don’t even know it.
In commenting on the video, Anthony Watts cited another such CEO, from Innovex, who sent a sharp letter to The North Face about their “virtue-signaling”. And mentioned that the Colorado Oil and Gas Association gave The North Face an award on March 4. But he also noted that “The North Face is either clueless about how the fabrics they use are made, or the company wanted to virtue signal to its nature loving customers hoping they wouldn’t realize that the clothing that they wear is created from petroleum.”
If it’s the former, The North Face are fools who need to get smarter. If the latter, they’re rogues who need to mend their ways. Neither is a good look, or a comfortable fit.