Making Sustainable Choices Easier with EcoChoice

A pioneering step for the industry, EcoChoice is Rapala VMC’s commitment to change. Found in the packaging of EcoChoice-labeled products, the trademark is designed to act as a signifier of a high-quality product manufactured with responsible raw materials.

Innovation, Sustainability | 4 min read

To say that Spring 2022 has been ‘busy’ for Taneli Väisänen would be a massive understatement. As the Research & Sustainability Manager, he’s involved in everything sustainable in Rapala VMC. And lately, he has been overseeing a project that will play a significant role in the company’s future. The project is EcoChoice, Rapala VMC’s very own eco-label.

“When we were working on our company-wide sustainability strategy, we set different goals for all our brands. But we felt like something was missing – something that extends across all our brands and is, quite literally, tangible to the angler. That got us thinking: what if we had a corporate-wide label that helps anglers make sustainable choices?” Taneli recounts. 

That’s how EcoChoice, the fishing tackle industry’s first-ever sustainability label, was born. A pioneering step for the industry, the label is Rapala VMC’s commitment to change. Found in the packaging of EcoChoice-labeled products, the trademark is designed to act as a signifier of a high-quality product manufactured with responsible raw materials.

“EcoChoice is our promise of a better tomorrow. And when you choose an EcoChoice product, you’re contributing to that tomorrow yourself. Simply put, EcoChoice stands for a sustainable product,” Taneli explains.

But what does ´sustainable’ exactly mean? With the word getting thrown around every so often, a definition is in order. Or, in this case, definitions.

“Since EcoChoice is a company-wide label, we had to define what an ‘ecological product’ is. And then we had to do that for other brands, as well!” Taneli tells.

“Let’s take a Rapala hard bait for an example. A wooden bait consists of numerous components: wood, weights, and a diving lip. We reviewed each of those components and explored ways of making them more ecological. At the end of the process, we have a hard bait with a core made of FSC-certified balsa wood, leadless weights, and a diving lip made of either recycled or bio-based plastic – in a package that is recyclable or completely plastic-free. Only after meeting those requirements, it can be called an EcoChoice product.”

And then that process was repeated for other brands – since every brand is different. Now, Rapala VMC has laid out the EcoChoice prerequisites for Rapala, Dynamite Baits, and Marttiini. The requirements set by the company include other certificates, as well, since EcoChoice is designed to complement, not replace, well-established eco-certificates. And, as the sustainability strategies for other brands come along, so will the EcoChoice criteria. But the requirements won’t be set in stone. Quite the opposite.

“We plan to conduct a thorough sustainability check for our brands each year, maybe even twice a year. That also provides us the opportunity to review and update our EcoChoice requirements. This, in turn, will also guide our product development. Our current goal is to have approximately 30 % of all our brands’ products EcoChoice-labeled – in the future, we hope to get that number even higher,” Taneli explains. 

For Rapala VMC – and, especially for Taneli – all this means a lot of extra work. While it’s no secret that manufacturers and retailers are getting more and more eco-conscious, Taneli points out that EcoChoice is not meant as a competitive advantage and will not affect the prices of the products whatsoever. Instead, it is the company’s way of safeguarding the future of the sport.

“Angling is one of the few hobbies completely reliant on nature’s wellbeing. Without healthy waters, there’s no fishing. In my opinion, EcoChoice is a sign of goodwill from us. It’s not market-driven; it’s our contribution to ensuring that the upcoming generations can enjoy angling the way we have,” Taneli says.

Ultimately, EcoChoice is more than a sustainability label for Rapala VMC – it’s a paradigm shift for the company, a mentality that guides different sustainability initiatives across the Group. Among these initiatives is the EcoChoice Challenge which encourages employees to propose ways of making their place of work more sustainable, and the EcoChoice Program which drives societal change and contributes to the wellbeing of waterways. Taneli points out that initiatives like these are just the first steps on a long journey.

“We aren’t taking any high roads here. We still have a lot to learn, and if there’s something we could be doing better, feel free to call us out! Our annual sustainability report is published on our website so that everyone can see it – because, without accountability, there’s no progress. For us, sustainability is a life-long journey of constant improvement.”