Outdoor Industries Association Blog

Archive for February, 2011

New Eco Index sets environmental impact benchmarking tool for outdoor industry

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Sustainability is understandably high on everyone’s agenda today and relates to every aspect of  our lives and planet.  Defined as ‘the capacity to endure’ it is however, or at least can be, a complicated subject to tackle, especially in business.  It encompasses so many areas it can be difficult to know where to even begin.  With environmental, economic or social? How should you measure it, what does the measurement mean and by whose definition?  What would be considered good or bad?  It is questions like these that have led to the launch of a new tool, the Eco Index; a joint initiative led by the US Outdoor Industry Association and the European Outdoor Group.

The Eco Index, an environmental assessment tool designed to advance sustainability practices, is a positive step forwards for the global outdoor industry as a whole and gives, primarily, manufacturers the basis for some sort of measurement and benchmarking of their environmental footprint.  It allows manufacturers to look through the various lifestages of their products and assess the different ways they either damage or benefit the environment, allowing them to identify areas for improvement and make informed sourcing and product life cycle decisions. The tool has been built with collaboration in mind, and remains open source and encourages greater transparency.

Many individual companies within the outdoor industry have long been adopting more sustainable practice both environmentally and socially.  But with no common tool or process, there has been no base or industry norm to compare against.  The Eco Index tool will be instrumental in allowing companies to not only see where there are requirements for improvement within their supply chain, but where they are in terms of ‘eco-achievement’.  And the tool provides practical solutions on where improvements can be made, which in many cases lead to greater business efficiencies and cost savings in the process.

At first glance, the Eco Index tool looks a little intimidating and complex, but it is really a very straightforward tool.  Joe McSwiney, CEO of Cascade Designs, one of the 100 companies to pilot test the index, made a very astute observation during a recent presentation at ISPO this week. He said whatever you measure you will improve. Show someone what they look like in the mirror, and they will try and improve some aspect (even subconsciously).  Use the same principal within your company and by telling your employees you will measure again in six months, it will naturally mean people will try and improve.  And that’s an interesting way of looking at it.

The tool is not the finished article yet, but it’s a good start.  So if you are a manufacturer in the outdoor industry, visit www.ecoindexbeta.org and try it yourself.  You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain.  And given the natural environment is the very bedrock of our industry’s existence; it is well worth taking a look.