Eco Index spreading its wings to other recreation industry segments -- bike, sports, paddle

After the unveiling of the beta version of the Eco Index product assessment tool in July at the OutDoor show in Germany, the road show to promote its use hasn’t stopped. Promotion of its development and use has reached the bike, general sporting goods and, now, paddle markets. SNEWS was there to find out how it went.
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After the unveiling of the beta version of the Eco Index product assessment tool in July at the OutDoor show in Germany, the road show to promote its use hasn’t stopped.

On Oct. 6, the push to spread the word about its use, mission and testing to a broader sports and recreation industry arrived at Kanumesse in Nuremberg, Germany. There, in an 8 a.m. pre-show talk attended by SNEWS®, European Outdoor Group executive director Mark Held managed to attract nearly three dozen early birds curious about the index and its intent to help brands be “greener.”

“Why are we here?” Held asked in his presentation. “How sustainable is your business? We want to share what we have done, and we want to join with and learn from your sector as well.”

That is the message that Held has been taking to other segments since the July launch of the beta site (see a July 28, 2010, SNEWS story by clicking here), and its subsequent North American introduction at the Outdoor Retailer show in early August. The product assessment tool’s beta has now been introduced at the Eurobike show (www.eurobike.com) in early September in Friedrichshafen, Germany; at a late September meeting of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (www.wfsgi.org), which represents general sports brands; and, now, to the paddle-specific sector at Kanumesse (www.kanumesse.de).

“This is about spreading the word and inviting more to participate -- and hopefully, end up with a stronger tool,” Held told SNEWS later. “It’s naïve to think the outdoor industry has all the answers.”

The tool helps companies profile a product or product line from A to Z to determine how sound and sustainable its materials and development are, among other things. As an internal tool, it helps companies to measure their environmental footprint, assess their performance and find ways to improve, while making better-informed decisions about sourcing.

Initial testing is scheduled to conclude this year, so as many brands that can try it and offer feedback are welcome, he said. So far, nearly 100 brands have dipped in to give it a whirl. Although the online version (so far, the beta is a spreadsheet that must be done on paper) was originally set to launch in early 2011, Held admitted that may be over-zealous. After being in the works for more than three years on both sides of the Atlantic, the final version must have any kinks and unclear areas worked out before it is finalized, he said. The launch may be postponed until mid-2011.

Curious

Still, paddle brands wanted to know more and Held explained they should take part because it helps them be a better-run business with stronger sustainability and environmental standards.

“All companies are looking in that direction,” Nick Turner, manager of protective helmet company WRSI, told SNEWS after sitting in on the talk at Kanumesse. “It’s important.”

Florian Brunner, Germany’s distributor of the Starboard stand-up paddle boards, said he will encourage his company to take a look at the tool, recalling the piles of cardboard, paper and bubble wrap waste that comes off of boards after they are shipped.

“We have to protect our environment,” he added.

With the tool’s broad application to any product from backpacks and paddles to treadmills, bikes or running shoes, it seems natural to Held to promote its use to the broader recreation industries.

“We’re all talking to all areas of recreation and sport since we are all stakeholders,” he explained. “Consumers don’t always segment themselves as ‘outdoor’ or ‘paddle’ or as ‘bike’ or whatever. They just enjoy.”

To see the beta Eco Index tool and read more about it -- or to help assess it and give feedback -- click here to go to the website (www.ecoindexbeta.org).

--Therese Iknoian

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