The outdoor industry has had many political successes in the past few years, but it’s really only getting started.
At the Outdoor Industry Association’s Capitol Summit Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Executive Director Amy Roberts said she wants to make headway on issues that could easily become a long-term legacy for the industry.
“I want us to seize on the collective power of the industry, to have a unified voice and make big changes,” Roberts said.
That unified voice is an undeniably strong one. OIA joined forces with the Conservation Alliance and Outdoor Alliance this week to form a trifecta of influence in 80 meetings across Capitol Hill. It’s the first time the three organizations have coordinated their lobbying days, and it’s a clear indication that the outdoor industry will be a “sleeping giant” no more, as former interior secretary Bruce Babbitt said at Outdoor Retailer last January.
It’s roughly a $646 billion industry, which is more than logging, mining and drilling combined – and much more sustainable, on top of that.
Solidifying the industry as an economic powerhouse is one of Roberts’ major goals, and she’s in a good position to do it. Before taking over OIA last summer, she spent three and a half years at MEC in British Colombia (where she skied 30 days a year), as its director of sustainability. And prior to that, she was OIA’s vice president of government affairs and sustainability for six years.
The Fort Morgan, Colo., native said she grew up as a free-range kid, who went outside to play in the morning and came home at dinner time. The small town is hardly the picture of what you expect of Colorado - more flat land than mountain vistas - but it was still a great place to grow up, Roberts said. Two of her uncles have climbed all of Colorado’s 14ers, which has inspired her to hike them, too. She estimates she’s summited about 15 of them.
She wants others to have those kinds of experiences, too, and for the outdoor industry to put itself in a place to take the credit.
Roberts hopes to solidify the industry in the public eye as a force for good – one that works to make people happier and healthier, and that sets the standard for sustainability.
“I feel like we have the opportunity to take the lead on sustainability and sustainable business practices,” Roberts said. “I think we can be famous for that, and use our influence to affect other industries.”