There are many family businesses with tradition, but only very few manage to implement modern product innovations while keeping an eye on their own future visions. This makes the performance of family businesses even more outstanding when they actually manage to skilfully combine tradition and modernity without losing the value philosophy of a family business.
We would like to introduce such a company here today. We are talking about our partner ZANIER, who successfully runs such a family business with more than five decades of tradition in the Tyrolean mountains. We are already working with the internationally operating glove manufacturer in the second season.
Zanier was founded in 1969 by the couple Werner and Gabi Zanier. At that time still a small glove manufacturer in Tyrol, Zanier has since mutated into a global company. International top stars of the ski and snowboard scene as well as biking and mountain sports enthusiasts rely on Zanier gloves. A core competence of Zanier is the strict focus on the gloves sector. While for other companies gloves merely serve as additional accessories to the actual collection, they have always been the focus of Zanier. We spoke to CEO Markus Zanier about gloves per se, sustainability and the passion for outdoor adventures.
What makes a Zanier glove different from a common product?
Markus Zanier: “We are the boutique glove manufacturer. Through our history, many years of expertise and our high standards of innovation and product development, we enable passionate mountain sports experiences and live them too. We test and develop our products in our local area, the mountains of Tyrol, together with professionals and outdoor enthusiasts like us. This includes the Austrian Mountain Rescue Service, with whom we have been working since 2012. With the valuable know-how of this organisation we have developed mountain sport models for the toughest conditions in alpine terrain as well as for use with rope. Today, the inputs of the mountain rescue professionals shape the entire Mountaineering collection.”
This sounds as if long development processes are necessary before a new product is launched…
Markus Zanier: “Exactly. It takes years of expertise to produce the perfect glove for a particular demand. Whether it is the perfect glove fit, long-lasting cold protection, innovative materials or sustainable insulation – glove production requires intensive product development despite its small size. We deliver function and design in every category – whether freeride or alpine skiing, aviation, outdoor, ski touring, mountaineering or bike sport.”
Speaking of athletes – Zanier works with numerous athletes. What are the advantages of working together with athletes directly?
Markus Zanier: “The know-how of our athletes and mountain pros is incorporated very strongly into the product development. Athletes from the fields of skiing, snowboarding, biking or aviation test our gloves all year round under the toughest conditions and work with us on the continuous development of our products. The experience of the professionals contributes significantly to the improvement of the models.”
But it is not only its many years of hands-on expertise, but also its stringent, sustainable environmental philosophy that distinguishes the Tyrolean family business from other companies. For example, Zanier is the only glove manufacturer worldwide that produces CO2-neutral.
Zanier – like Sympatex – places great emphasis on sustainability. Particularly when it comes to climate compensation and recycling, the strategies of our two companies are in absolute agreement…
Markus Zanier: “Absolutely right. For us, Sympatex is the only strategic option for going into the future in the long term. That is why we have now completely replaced our own membrane with Sympatex. In addition to the high functionality and quality of a German manufacturer, the decisive features for us are that the membrane is produced in a climate-neutral way and can be recycled. We want to continue to deliver the best quality and are at the same time aware that only sustainability has a future. The natural environment – our playground – must be preserved for our children and grandchildren.”
That sounds very ambitious – how does Zanier intend to achieve this ambitious goal?
Markus Zanier: “As a climate-neutral company, we compensate the CO2 emissions of our production through selected nature and climate protection projects around the world in order to preserve our most important asset, nature, for the future.”
Which projects are these exactly?
Markus Zanier: “Since we as a company have strong ties with the mountains of Tyrol, we support the “CIPRA – Living in the Alps” project, which aims to promote sustainable development in the Alpine region since 1951. We also support a wind power project in China, more precisely in Hebei province. It is obvious that even there, where the majority of ZANIER products are manufactured, we attach great importance to environmental protection. South of Guyuan, a wind farm with 133 turbines has been built, which generates an average of over 405,000 MWh. This ensures a climate-friendly and emission-free power supply for the entire region in the long term.”
The best sustainability standards are useless if they are not thoroughly checked and adhered to – how do you control them?
Markus Zanier: “CO2 neutrality is guaranteed thanks to our cooperation with Climate Partner. Independent organisations such as TÜV, SGS, PwC and others also monitor the exact amount of savings, and an order-related ID makes this transparent and traceable for everyone. According to this philosophy, we also use sustainable functional materials such as Sympatex as an ecological, fully recyclable membrane, but also loden and wool from Austria.”
Sustainable production also means major financial challenges. Reducing emissions often causes additional costs and the development of new and sustainable product innovations costs time, money and resources. How does Zanier master this challenge?
Markus Zanier: “Again, we rely on partnership to jointly generate the necessary innovation know-how.”
One of these partners is our long-term customer bleed organic clothing. What does your cooperation look like? Which product have you developed together?
Markus Zanier: “Together with bleed from nearby Bavaria, we have developed a multifunctional outdoor glove that closes the recycling loop 100% – a lead product in the field of sustainable gloves. This model is highly functional, CO2-neutral, bluesign and Oeko-tex certified, and at the same time 100% recycled and 100% recyclable thanks to the Sympatex laminate we use. The so-called “Eco Active Gloves Green” will be available in September 2020.”
Zanier clearly shows that functionality, sustainability and design are by no means mutually exclusive. And that the use of sustainable materials, such as Sympatex for wind- and waterproof insulation of the gloves, fulfils even the highest demands in terms of functional quality. It will be interesting to see which product innovations Zanier will be developing in the next few years – there is definitely no lack of ideas.