Outdoor Industry’s Eco Working Group Developing Product Index

BOULDER, CO (January 8, 2009) – “We are engaged in an unprecedented collaboration. It is a clear demonstration of how to collectively rise to a value-driven vision of the Outdoor Industry,” said Kevin Myette, chairman of the Outdoor Industry Association Eco Working Group. “We will soon have hard choices to make as we define the metrics and criteria of industry-wide environmental sustainability. We have the players and resources to do it right. But we always need more participation. Everyone should be at the table to help shape this effort – everyone will likely be affected by it.”

Myette was describing the mission and progress of the Eco Working Group between his stints to Asia, Europe and the many REI locations in the US in his role as Director of Product Integrity for REI.

Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) formed the Eco Working Group in 2007 to explore issues of environmental sustainability related to the outdoor industry and to develop an industry wide Eco Index for products and companies. Over 125 volunteers from over 80 outdoor businesses have collaborated to develop the group’s vision, mission, governance structure and guidelines, work teams, a web site, focused objectives, specific products, services, and events. Most recently, Zero Waste Alliance (www.zerowaste.org) was hired to manage and facilitate the ongoing process of developing this Eco Index. 

The Group first met in Boulder to tackle the complex task of measuring the sustainability efforts within the outdoor industry. Jill Dumain, director of environmental analysis for Patagonia, attended that first Boulder meeting and observed, “The more you get into the details and the more you learn, you realize how little you know. There are many layers of complexities that aren’t always clear at the beginning. This is why it takes the collaboration of the industry to make it all happen.”

To systematically address these layers of complexity, the OIA Eco Working Group has developed a process framework – now called Framework 2.5.1 – to address and measure the issues of sustainability. “The framework represents the bedrock on which we will build our index,” commented Joe McSwiney, president of Cascade Designs. “Its strongest feature… is that it is an agreed framework. We have agreed at a fundamental level to how we will view environmental impact and where we will look for impact in the product lifecycle.” The framework is available online for all the outdoor industry to consider and use at www.oia-eco.org.

“From the beginning, we have tried to proceed with transparency, open source process and consensus. Everything we do and say is open to all. The experience of working and sharing in a room full of folks who otherwise compete with each other on a daily basis has been amazing and very confirming,” said Myette. “You can’t leave these Eco Working Group meetings and our many, many conference calls and not believe the outdoor industry is different. People are so smart and so anxious to get this done right.”

Shannon Davis of the US Environmental Protection Agency has been an advisor to the Eco Working Group since its inception. She observed, “The Eco Working Group is critical on the path to greener, more environmentally friendly products. They are doing cutting edge work in analyzing and reducing the environmental impact of their products, and their pioneering efforts will have impacts far beyond their industry.”

The Eco Working Group is planning an open industry meeting at Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake on Saturday, January at 7:30 to 9 AM in the Deer Valley Room at the Salt Lake City Marriott Downtown Hotel. The meeting will feature report-out presentations by:

  • Materials: Derek Campbell-Brooks and Chuck Haryslak-Polartec
  • Manufacturing: Joe McSwiney-Cascade Designs and Ammi Borenstein- OutdoorResearch
  • Packaging: Eric Abraham-REI and Jenny Mesdag-Outdoor Research
  • Environmental Lenses: Pete Girard-Timberland and Collenn Kohlsaat-Levi
  • Stakeholders: John Cooley-Marmot
  • Development: Kristi Rummel – Sierra Magazine

 For more information about the Outdoor Retailer meeting or to RSVP, visit www.outdoorindustry.org.

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, suppliers, sales representatives and retailers in the outdoor industry. OIA programs include representation in government/legislative affairs, market and social research, business-to-business services and youth outreach initiatives. Educational events include the annual Rendezvous, Outdoor University, and the Capitol Summit. Outdoor Industry Association is based in Boulder, Colorado, and is the title sponsor of the Outdoor Retailer tradeshows. For more information go to www.outdoorindustry.org or call 303.444.3353.

***Editor’s Note: The ATTA continues to work closely with the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) to create synergies between the outdoor and adventure travel industries. With this in mind, ATN will continue to bring news of relevance from the outdoor gear manufacturing sector, as many ideas originating from OIA and its members are progressive and may serve as grist for our work in the adventure travel community.

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