If you are looking for a wetsuit that is more eco-friendly than a traditional petroleum based neoprene wetsuit, but you cannot afford Patagonia’s very sustainable Yulex wetsuit, Roxy’s 5/4/3 suit may be the perfect choice for you! The wetsuit is sold for $199.95. That is incredibly cheap for a wetsuit, especially a 5mm wetty with a hood! While this suit is made for cold climates and is 5mm thick on the torso, it is still super flexible and light weight (1.4 kg). Flexible and light weight wetsuits can often be difficult to produce when using thicker neoprene, so I was stoked to find out that this suit kept most surfers warm while still allowing them plenty of movement in the water. While Roxy may have a long way to go to become a truly sustainable and ethical brand, they are certainly moving in the right direction with their non-petroleum based neoprene suits, QUEST program, use of recycled polyester and Carbon Black, and implementation of materials that reduce their environmental impact.
Roxy is well known for not only making women’s swimwear that is stylish and functional, but they also have started making wetsuits that are both affordable and more environmentally conscious than traditional wetsuits. The Roxy 5/4/3mm Syncro Chest Zip Wetsuit is made with limestone-derived neoprene, fleece lining, Carbon Black that is made from recycled scrap rubber tires, water-based glue, nylon, elastane, polyester made from 25 recycled plastic bottles, dope-dyed yarn, and a plastic zipper.
Roxy reports that the recycled scrap rubber tires they use for their Carbon Black material saves 200g of carbon emissions per suit. The use of water-based glues replaces the commonly used 600 grams of solvents/VOCs for each wetsuit. Roxy also uses dope-dyed yarn to cut down on waste, save energy, and conserves 104L of water resources per wetsuit.
Unlike petroleum-based neoprene, limestone based neoprene is not made from fossil fuels and has a uniform cell structure that provides more warmth. Petroleum-based neoprene suits have about 65-69% impermeability, which means they soak up water like a sponge and stay wet for longer. On the other hand, limestone based neoprene has about 98% water impermeability, which means you can stay warmer in colder water for much longer. Limestone based neoprene is also lighter and more durable than petroleum-based suits so they will last you longer than a traditional wetsuit.
While this style of Roxy wetsuit is a more environmentally friendly option in comparison to traditionally petroleum-based neoprene wetsuits, limestone mining is an unsustainable practice. Limestone is mined from a quarry or underground. Limestone mining can contaminate groundwater, create sinkholes, destroy deep cave habitats, and emit dust which can harm human health. Despite these negative environmental impacts, it is estimated that limestone reserves on Earth will exist for about 3,000 more years, while petroleum reserves will not make it anywhere close to 3,000 years. So by making suits from limestone-based neoprene, Roxy is helping the surfing community break away from a reliance on petroleum-based products.
Roxy’s website is unclear about where their wetsuits are made and where their factories are located, but according to other sources Roxy’s products are mostly manufactured in China, Pakistan, and India. Roxy also does not describe where their wetsuit’s materials are sourced from, so I decided to do a little bit of digging. Apparently limestone can be found most commonly in Egypt, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, so it is highly likely that the limestone Roxy uses comes from one of these places. Roxy buys their limestone based neoprene from a Taiwanese company called SHEICO. SHEICO’s factories are in Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Once the limestone is processed into neoprene at one of SHEICO’s factories, the neoprene is shipped to one of Roxy’s factories in China, Pakistan, or India.
Roxy does not describe their factory’s manufacturing process for their wetsuits. Once the wetsuit is completed it is wrapped in plastic packing and shipped. While Roxy is extremely vague about their wetsuit’s supply chain and manufacturing, Roxy’s fabric mills have received BLUESIGN System Partner certification. BLUESIGN is a company follows each textile’s path along the manufacturing process and makes improvements regarding sustainability and worker’s health at each stage. BLUESIGN monitors Roxy’s use of chemicals and ensures that SHEICO efficiently uses energy and water resources.
Before the Roxy brand was founded, there were very few popular surf brands that catered specifically to women. In the 1990s Quicksilver decided to change that and take a risk by founding the Roxy brand. Quicksilver, which changed its name to Boardriders, Inc. in 2017, owns the brands Roxy, DC Shoes, and Quicksilver. Since Roxy’s beginnings they have focused on making swim, snow, and surf products that truly fit women’s bodies. Roxy’s international staff, factory workers, and suppliers have been the force behind the creation of the globally popular Roxy products.
While Roxy is not transparent about where their factories are or how much they pay their workers, in 2004 Boardriders, Inc. established a global ethical program called “QUEST”, which stands for Quicksilver Ethical Standards of Trade. This program was created to prevent abusive, exploitive, or illegal conditions in the workplace and prevent human trafficking and slavery. The QUEST program requests that all suppliers allow their workers freedom of association and collective bargaining; provide workers with a safe and healthy work environment; conduct business in compliance with applicable environmental, labor and employment laws; protect against human trafficking and slavery; and refrian from corrupt policies. Boardriders, Inc. requires that all agents, vendors, and factories participate in the QUEST program. A QUEST team and independent factory auditors conduct audits to make sure they are in compliance with the QUEST standards. QUEST training is also mandatory for all company employees and management that have direct responsibility for supply chain management. If an employee or manager is found in non-compliance with the QUEST standards, then they must follow a Corrective Action Plan or they will face termination. I was unable to find any evidence that Roxy mistreats their workers, so hopefully that means that their QUEST program is followed by all their agents, managers, vendors, factories, and employees. I just wish Roxy would do their consumers a favor and be more transparent about their supply chain, manufacturing, and worker’s wages!