AdventureTravelNews

Outdoor Industry Companies Invited to Test Beta Version of Industry-Wide Environmental Assessment Tool

BOULDER, COLO.–The Outdoor Industry Association’s Eco Working Group will hold informational sessions during Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City, UT to introduce brands, designers and suppliers to the Beta Phase 1 version of the outdoor industry’s Eco Index and encourage participation in its pilot testing program this fall.

The Eco Index pilot program is open to all outdoor companies and will begin in late August 2010. Several workshops at OR will provide those interested with the necessary background and guidance on the pilot program: please RSVP at the Outdoor Industry Association events page. A series of webinars will also be held throughout the fall for pilot program participants.

Feedback will be gathered from pilot program participants via the Eco Index website as well as through the webinar series, with the Phase 1 Index scheduled for formal release in early 2011.

A first for the outdoor industry, the Eco Index is designed to help companies benchmark and measure their environmental footprint, allowing them to identify areas for improvement and make informed sourcing and product life cycle decisions. In development since 2007 by the Eco Working Group, a volunteer industry committee including more than 100 outdoor companies, the Eco Index tool encompasses guidelines, performance indicators, footprint metrics and a comparative scoring system against a six-stage lifecycle approach.

“Enhancing transparency within the supply chain and speeding the adoption of best business practices are two of our goals for the Eco Index initiative,” explained Amy Roberts, Vice President of Government Affairs, Outdoor Industry Association. “The Eco Index framework is modular, so companies can start small and work their way through it as they are able based on their level of knowledge and resources.”

The success of the outdoor industry is directly linked to the health of the planet and the continued existence of places to play outside. The industry has a responsibility to lead the charge toward implementing more sustainable business practices that protect the livelihood of the industry: the environment.

Suppliers, brands, and retailers alike are facing increasing pressure to reduce the impact of their products throughout the product life cycle. The Eco Index provides guidance, methodology, and tools for outdoor companies to assess their current practices and prioritize their efforts to implement more sustainable solutions. For outdoor retailers in particular, another challenge is wading through the wide variety of brand-specific sustainability measurement systems and labels currently in existence. The Eco Index will provide retailers with a common language to identify the environmental impacts of the products and brands they carry.

“I think so many companies want to do the right thing environmentally but not every company has the ability to understand what the right thing is.” remarked Jill Dumain, Director of Environmental Strategy at Patagonia and Chair of the Eco Working Group Advisory Council. “We’ve been able to bring together the best minds and the best ideas and come up with an index that is really progressive and that everyone has agreed upon. Partners along the supply chain can work towards the same goal and change within the industry will happen at a quicker rate.”

The Eco Index initiative has been facilitated by Zero Waste Alliance (ZWA), a Portland, Oregon-based 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on developing standards, tools and practices that lead to a more sustainable future. The Portland Development Commission has provided critical financial support for the Eco Index. The Eco Index beta website, www.ecoindexbeta.org, has been developed by California-based SourceN and Oya Group.

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