As outdoor industry leaders gather in Washington, D.C. this week to speak with members of Congress, sponsors of the Outdoor Industry Association’s Capitol Summit tell SNEWS why policy matters to them. Today, we hear from Columbia Sportswear’s Peter Bragdon:
Columbia Sportswear Company has been an active member of the Outdoor Industry Association since 1994. The OIA plays a vital role in promoting industry-wide initiatives and providing a non-competitive forum through which outdoor companies and organizations collaborate on environmental and social issues. By working collaboratively on issues that benefit the industry and help sustain the places, spaces and activities that define the outdoors, we believe we are accomplishing far more than would be possible working independently.
For example, Columbia is an original member of the OIA Sustainability Working Group (SWG), formed in 2007, a volunteer collaboration among more than 250 outdoor industry brands, retailers and suppliers working to improve the environmental and social impacts of their shared global supply chains. The SWG is currently focused on four key work areas, in all of which Columbia is an active participant:
- Building indexes for apparel, footwear and equipment.
- Responsible chemicals management — creating decision making tools to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals throughout a product life cycles.
- Materials traceability — establishing reliable traceability systems throughout the global supply chain.
- Social responsibility and fair labor — building a social responsibility roadmap and tools to incorporate into the indexes.
One of the primary accomplishments of the OIA SWG has been the development of the Eco Index – a standardized tool that companies can use to evaluate and measure the environmental and social impact of individual products. The OIA is now working in conjunction with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) to merge the Eco Index with the SAC’s Apparel Index to create a single, unified tool for the entire apparel industry.
On April 12, 2012, The White House honored the OIA SWG with a “Champions of Change” award, part of President Obama’s “Winning the Future” initiative. The OIA SWG was selected for this award to highlight how innovative industry-wide collaboration has succeeded in identifying and promoting sustainable choices that make good business sense and protect natural resources. Columbia is proud of its contributions to the SWG and encouraged by this recognition for the OIA’s collaborative model.
Working with industry colleagues to create the Apparel Index tool is helping Columbia put its own long term commitment to sustainability into action. Benchmarking our policies and practices relative to industry best practices using the Apparel Index and related tools increases our awareness of the environmental impact of decisions and enables us to identify and prioritize areas of improvement. The Apparel Index instills a common language across Columbia’s product creation disciplines and the industry, enabling more effective collaboration at all levels.
As an industry, outdoor companies share similar long-term environmental and social challenges. Finding solutions and improved practices to address those challenges is an on-going journey. Columbia Sportswear is committed to continuing to work with its fellow OIA members to find economically feasible solutions and to strive for steady, continuous improvement across all facets of our business.