Norwegian sportswear producer Stormberg has become the latest target of farmers, hunters, landowners and others who want to all but rid Norway of wolves. They’ve resorted to burning Stormberg clothing after the company started financially supporting wildlife organization WWF, to help protect endangered species.
Stormberg’s initial donation of NOK 400,000 a year to WWF is specifically aimed at trying to save the largest owl in Norway, called hubroen, from extinction. Since WWF is legally challenging Norway’s current and biggest-ever wolf hunt in court, however, anti-wolf activists now view Stormberg as among their enemies.
“Now it’s over for Stormberg products here in the house,” wrote one angry Stormberg customer on the company’s Facebook page, adding a wish for bankruptcy for the sportswear-maker in 2018.
“Stormberg is history in my closet,” wrote another, adding that all the former customer’s Stormberg clothing had been “burned in a bonfire.” Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported Wednesday that calls are also going out for a boycott of the company, since it was cooperating with “an organization that has a goal of wiping out Norwegian business in the wilderness.”
Most of those opposed to wolves are owners of grazing sheep that are released into the wild every summer, hunters who fear wolves will scare off the moose and deer they want to shoot themselves, and landowners who sell hunting and grazing rights. Some residents of rural areas where wolves have been reestablishing themselves since they were protected by the state in the early 1970s also feel threatened, even though wolves are known for being shy animals that fear people.
Steinar J Olsen, who established Stormberg in 1998 and has won the title of Norway’s “most sustainable” business operation for the past four years in a row, initially tried to calm angry customers by pointing out that Stormberg’s agreement with WWF was meant to protect owls. That didn’t matter to customers who oppose WWF because it’s trying to halt the wolf hunt that resumed on New Year’s Day. The stream of complaints to WWF began right after Stormberg announced its agreement with WWF Norge over the New Year’s weekend, and published a video of Olsen interviewing outgoing WWF leader Nina Jensen about how important it is to take care of endangered species.
“Disappointing,” wrote another customer. “I choose to boycott all of your products and will recommend that everyone else does the same.” Others continued to claim they would “never buy” Stormberg products again. “May 2018 be the year Stormberg disappears,” wrote another.
Olsen responded on New Year’s Day by acknowledging on social media that Stormberg had lost customers. He claimed, though, that the loss merely showed how “important it is for someone to stand up for endangered species and biological diversity! We look forward to cooperate in what’s best for the nature.”
When the opposition escalated on Tuesday, Olsen went even more on the offensive, by doubling Stormberg’s financial support for WWF. “The opposition to cooperation with WWF Norge inspires us to strengthen our commitment to take care of threatened species and biological diversity,” he wrote on social media. “Therefore we’re doubling the economic support from next year.”
‘Standing for what we believe in’
Stormberg, which had revenues in 2016 of NOK 363.5 million on sales of more than 2 million articles of clothing, has long been socially engaged and contributes 1 percent of revenues to charity. Its goal for 2017 was to contribute NOK 38 million (USD 4.75 million) to worthy causes.
“We’re used to Stormberg’s commitments unleasing powerful reaction from some,” Stormberg told DN. “We’ve seen that in our work towards more inclusiveness and integration, but we choose to stand for what we believe in, regardless of the reaction that comes.”
He admitted he was surprised by the harsh reaction to support for WWF, “but I think most agree that we have a responsibility to take care of the nature we all value.”
Olsen also urged angry customers against burning their Stormberg clothing on bonfires and to simply take advantage of Stormberg’s recycling program instead. “I encourage them to take their Stormberg clothes to their nearest Stormberg store (found in Norway and Sweden) and turn them in,” Olsen told DN. “Recycling clothes is more environmentally friendly than burning them.”