First Meeting to Establish Outdoor Industry Eco Working Group Held - SNEWS

First Meeting to Establish Outdoor Industry Eco Working Group Held

This week, 70 representatives from 34 outdoor industry manufacturers convened in Boulder, Colorado to discuss the development of an assessment tool for measuring the environmental footprint of outdoor industry products. The first meeting of the OIA Eco Working Group consisted primarily of production, design, sourcing, and corporate social responsibility representatives from outdoor industry companies with an interest in understanding and improving their environmental performance.
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Boulder, CO – This week, 70 representatives from 34 outdoor industry manufacturers convened in Boulder, Colorado to discuss the development of an assessment tool for measuring the environmental footprint of outdoor industry products. The first meeting of the OIA Eco Working Group consisted primarily of production, design, sourcing, and corporate social responsibility representatives from outdoor industry companies with an interest in understanding and improving their environmental performance.

“The outdoor industry has expressed interest to OIA in the development of a Working Group around sustainability and environmental production issues for some time,” commented Ann Obenchain, Director of Member Services and Marketing. “The leadership of REI and Timberland, along with the critical mass of numerous companies demonstrating action is what really got the group going.”

The two-day meeting provided background on environmental production standards in other industries and then examined next steps for the outdoor industry to pursue the process of developing an outdoor industry program.

On day one, representatives from other industries who have developed some type of environmental standard shared their experiences; SC Johnson's Greenlist â„¢, Green Electronics Council's EPEAT, Green Building Council's LEED certification, paper assessment through EPAT, and the US EPA's Energy Star were presented and reviewed by the Eco Working Group. Representatives from these organizations had either coordinated or helped develop methods for industry-wide initiatives in other sectors to measure and report environmental compliance. Some of the speakers were involved from the beginning of the process; all offered tips, learnings, experiences, and leant their support to the outdoor industry.

“This process has been successful in other industries, and the outdoor industry shows the leadership, energy, and readiness to make this happen,” said Tom Gloria of Sustainable Minds in his introduction to the group on lifecycle analysis and measurement metrics.

There were common threads that emerged from the speakers' presentations. Some of the consistent findings were:

• Remain open to the variety of possible programs – could range from certification, label, standard, verification, registration, industry pledge, index, tool, or any combination of these.
• Determine the end goal.
• Make it simple.
• Involve a broad range of stakeholders in the process.
• Credibility is essential – gain support from government, non-profits, and across the industry.
• Model the program to address 80% of the worst 20% of the problem.
• Break the problem areas into categories - energy use, solid waste, resource intensity, etc.
• Consider the different types of verification and governance.
• Consider whether it should be internal, consumer facing, or both.
• Involve government where appropriate.
• Share information, share data.
• Use what's already out there – don't reinvent the wheel.
• Make it applicable and accessible for companies of all sizes and stages of business.

Given these considerations, and after taking the evening to reflect on the information presented over the day, the group reconvened on Wednesday to engage in facilitated brain storming, mind mapping, and other strategic thinking exercises. The objective of the creative thinking was to develop a mission and goal for what the outdoor industry Eco Working Group would like to achieve.

The strategic thinking yielded a broad range of results, but again, common themes in the group's vision for the direction of the Working Group surfaced. “Clearly there is a strong consensus around a vision,” stated Greg Foweracker of MEC. “We'd like to create something to support industry efforts to do no harm and reduce our footprint.”

In the end, the Eco Working Group agreed upon a subset of potential Missions and desired outcomes, and appointed Group Leaders. The Group Leaders will finalize a focused Mission and desired outcomes in the next month, which will set a starting point for action by the Eco Working Group.

All outdoor industry members are invited to learn more about the Eco Working Group during Summer Outdoor Retailer. A program will be held to share the initial findings, the direction of the Working Group, and invite participation from industry stakeholders.

The next Eco Working Group meeting will be August 11, 2007 7:30 to 9:00 am at the Marriott Hotel, Salt Lake City.

“Leaving today I see that there are a lot of companies who want to see change – and that there are entire industry paradigms that need to shift,” said Leigh Meyer of Simple. “But, if one person makes a change, it makes a small difference. If a million people, or our entire industry, make a small change, it makes an enormous difference.”

“There is an enormous amount of passion surrounding this issue,” said Kristine Carey of Sierra Designs. “Now it all comes down to making this happen. This group is very ready to do the leg work and bring something to the table for the rest of the industry to become involved and contribute.”

For more information on the Eco Working Group contact Ann Obenchain at aobenchain@outdoorindustry.org. To view the presentations from the Eco Working Group visit www.outdoorindustry.org

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About Outdoor Industry Association
Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA) is a national trade association whose mission is to ensure the growth and success of the outdoor industry. OIA provides trade services for over 4000 manufacturers, distributors, supplier, sales representatives and retailers in the outdoor industry. OIA programs includerepresentation in government/legislative affairs, market and social research, member cost saving benefits and outreach initiatives. Educational events include the annual Outdoor Industry Rendezvous, Outdoor University, and the Capitol Summit. Outdoor Industry Association is the exclusive endorser of the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow. For more information go to http://www.outdoorindustry.org or call 303.444.3353.

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