Eco Index tool still fine-tuning, taking feedback after six months

After six months in beta, administrators of the Eco Index product assessment tool are still gathering feedback from users. A full launch is likely another year away -- but don’t hesitate to dive in and give it a whirl. SNEWS takes a look at what is happening and what will happen.
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Although previously announced as ready-for-launch at the two major 2011 winter shows, the Eco Index is still in a beta version, gathering feedback from users, from small brands to behemoths like Wal-Mart.

Dozens of suppliers and brands attended two meetings at the 2011 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Jan. 20-23, looking for more information about its progress and use, Amy Kleiner-Roberts, OIA vice president for government affairs, told SNEWS®. The European Outdoor Group will organize similar meetings during Germany’s ispo show, Feb. 6-9.

“It’s useable now,” she said. Still, it remains an assessment tool that must be downloaded and printed out as a spreadsheet, rather than an online tool, which is the dream of committee members.

“We’re working toward a slicker user interface for the online tool,” Kleiner-Roberts said.

In addition, the tool is finding a larger audience than outdoor -- with beta users including Wal-Mart, as well as brands in sporting goods, cycling and paddle. After nearly four years in the making, the outdoor industry’s Eco Index has the foundation to become a broader global tool for many industries interested in assessing how green their products and manufacturing methods are.

The full rollout might be delayed until at least mid-2011, and may not happen until 2012, Kleiner-Roberts said. Mark Held, president of the European Outdoor Group, told SNEWS in Octoberthe early 2011 may be over-zealous, considering the quantity of feedback that needs review and the continued influx of users of the beta tool (www.ecoindexbeta.org).

“There were pieces that weren’t done yet,” said Kleiner-Roberts. Plus, with interest from other industries, the working groups are looking to make the tool more robust for hardgoods and footwear, broadening its current focus on softgoods.

To read a July 28, 2010, SNEWS story about the tool and the launch of its beta, click here.

Click here to read more about the U.S. working group and click here to read the details about the European group and its work. There are 40 voting members and more than 100 participating brands.

--Therese Iknoian 

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