The Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) is the trade body for manufacturers retailers and other organizations that provide products and services for the outdoor leisure pursuits market in the United Kingdom. Our role is to provide leadership and represent the industries’ interests and so help responsibly & sustainably increase participation in the Outdoors for everyone.
What does that actually mean to the hillwalker or climber on the mountain?
Well we are the not-for-profit body that businesses like Berghaus, Cotswold, The North Face, Rohan, Tiso’s etc… all join. As well as Outdoor brands and shops we also welcome tourism and education Outdoor bodies too such as the BMC, The Camping and Caravanning Club. It’s our job to ensure that their interest are best served, we aim to ‘Unite, Engage and Represent’ those members, so that means with issues like sustainability and green directives we need to help members find a way to actively engage, but in a commercial manner that help their business.
There is a deep inconsistency in the Outdoor Industry – on the one hand we are thought of as a bunch of tree-hugging, environmentally active, hill-walking Patagonia wearing ‘greenies’ yet on the other many of us will get on an airplane to ski down that receding glacier, will drive to the Lakes or Scotland climb the warming snow and ice, and will launch new collections and new products year after year risking waste and change before change is needed.
On a world stage, especially through the work of Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard, retailer Mountain Equipment Co-Op and the 1% For the Planet foundation, the Outdoor Industry has a very strong eco positive image – and that image no doubt helps us sell kit. At its most cynical it is commercially positive for us to support and endorse the green movement, to associate our brands with that group and lifestyle consumer. Yet there are many people in our industry that passionately believe in the sustainability agenda, they are anything but cynical, going out of their way to do the right thing, regardless of profit.
The harsh reality is of course, if there was no skiing or new ski resorts, no flights to go climbing. The harsh reality is of course, if there was no skiing or new ski resorts, no flights to go climbing, no new product made each year, no huts in the mountains etc.. we would leave a cleaner greener footprint – so what to do?!
As in our personal lives there is a balance to be struck, a decision to be made between a crusade on the one hand and a commercial, sustainable, best endeavor approach, in an already established industry on the other.
There is a demand in the market for Outdoor pursuits and the gear to enjoy them safely in. Indeed the love of the planet that motivates many a sustainability enthusiast or eco-campaigner is the same love of wilderness and mountains that fires the Outdoor industry. If our industry, built by users, enthusiasts and an authentic love for the land were to disappear, then the replacement could be so much worse?
The trick then, in walking the ‘Fine Patagonian Line’, is to use the position of responsibility we have as market leaders, to work with our customers and partners in ensuring best practice, and to build sustainable Outdoor gear that lasts. It is also to promote the use of the UK’s wonderful Outdoors rather than stepping on a plane every time you want to go climbing; to develop fabrics and trends such as re-cycled polyester fleece or organic cotton that then flow into more mainstream fashion clothing.
We accept that we live in a consumer driven world. Perhaps it is possible to grow industries more sustainably, rather than just to walk away from the issues or to take the ‘ostrich in the sand’ approach to the environmental challenges of today.
With ROG we are trying once again to walk that fine line – the ‘greenest’ jacket you have is the one you already own; if it does the job then you have no need of a new one. That purest approach however does no good to the industry selling you kit. It stifles development and innovation, denies donations to mountain rescue and environmental causes, and means the outdoor adventurer who wants the best, latest outdoor kit for their own trips is compromised.
Here now at ROG you have an option, swap, donate, move around Outdoor kit – enable more people to get outside, less well off adventurers, young people, groups, schools etc.. That new jacket you really want you can buy still, but now you have the option to pass on your old faithful rather than leave it rotting under the stairs.
Yes it’s a fine line. There are no clear cut decisions in an industry that supports a strong sustainable ethic, but with ROG perhaps we are moving one step nearer a compatible, commercial option that is both environmentally sustainable, yet commercially aware.
Andrew Denton, CEO, OIA