Tom Bihn, President, Founder, Designer, TOM BIHN
An important aspect of our company philosophy is the recognition that we’re not separate from our environment: we’re part of the environment. Plants, humans, non-human animals, rivers, lakes, and forests sustain each other. And we all share this, our home planet, together. As a company, we strive to do our best to demonstrate our respect for the environment and we seek out suppliers who feel the same way.
That’s why we’re so excited that Packaging Resources Company (PRC), the supplier of our shipping boxes, is now SFI certified. That means our shipping boxes carry the SFI label, which is good news for forests and for the planet.
Customers appreciate a greener supply chain
We began encouraging PRC to certify to SFI in 2018. I shared the effort and intentions behind it with Ben Jones, our Materials Manager and he continued to work with PRC on the project. When Nicholas Del Faro — a packaging designer at PRC who visited our factory one day and learned of our efforts to encourage PRC to become SFI certified — took the lead within PRC and began championing the certification project, the finish line to certification grew ever-nearer.
The efforts of Ben and Nicholas are two great examples of how employees can make a difference within their organizations. As a product designer, Nicholas was especially aware of the environmental impact of the boxes he designs, how they’re used, and what happens to them when they’re recycled and he knew that SFI certification would set PRC apart from their competition, helping them to gain new customers and even retain existing customers who may have been looking for more sustainable options.
An environmental proof point with customers
At TOM BIHN, we believe in and strive to maintain a company culture of continual improvement — in regard to our bags, our operations, and our environmental efforts. SFI certification tells our customers that the fiber in our shipping boxes comes from forests that are managed to respect key environmental values like supporting biodiversity, conserving species at risk, maintaining wildlife habitat, and enhancing water quality. SFI-certified forests are promptly replanted after harvest to ensure regeneration.
SFI standards are revised and updated every five years to incorporate the latest scientific information and to respond to emerging issues. And all SFI certifications require independent, third-party audits by internationally accredited certification bodies. It’s a meaningful certification: we don’t want to ask our customers simply to trust that we’re working towards improving our environmental standards, we want to show them the proof.
In 2019, we became a Certified B Corporation. These are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Just like our customers, B Corporation looks for the proof, and certifications such as SFI contributed towards our B Corporation certification and score.
Connecting with nature in SFI-certified forests
Something else we appreciate about SFI: the fact that almost all SFI-certified forestland is available for public recreation makes certification even cooler. If I’m not designing new packs or in the factory collaborating with Lisa, Fong, Nik and the rest of our production crew, you’ll find me out on the trail. And, of course, the backpacks we make have been helping people get out into the woods since 1972.
And that love for the outdoors is actually the inspiration behind becoming a pack designer — when I was 10 years old, I asked my parents for help getting some hiking and camping equipment. They suggested two options: get an after-school job and earn money to buy it, or “just figure out how to make it yourself.”
I chose the second option. My grandmother had an old Singer home sewing machine which my brother Dan helped me get running. My mom taught me how to sew and my dad provided the foundation for the necessary engineering and product design. And I’ve been making backpacks ever since.
A legacy of connecting people with the outdoors and the environment
The rest is history—I have spent my whole career designing and making backpacks, travel bags, and briefcases. I like to think how over the years our gear helped get people outside and really feel how we’re not separate from the environment; we are part of the environment.
TOM BIHN is an American baggage manufacturer, with products ranging from backpacks to travel accessories. It was founded in Santa Cruz in 1982 by Tom Bihn. All TOM BIHN bags are manufactured in Seattle, Washington at the company headquarters. Tom has been designing and making bags since 1972.