Outdoor Industries Association Blog

Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

10 low-cost ways to decrease your eco-footprint

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Sustainability, What are you doing?

If you’ve been to the Alps recently you will have seen evidence of climate change in action. The glaciers have been receding since the last ice age, but the last 30 years have seen a dramatic acceleration of this. You may or may not believe that this is due to human action, but as custodians of our world, we have a responsibility to look after it. As lovers and users of the outdoors, we should have a particular interest in preserving it. We are currently in Britain using resources at a rate that require 3 earths’ worth of resources. We are behind the US who are using over 7 earths’ worth of resources, but there is still lots that we could do to reduce our impact in the UK.

As small and medium size enterprises, you probably don’t have the same impact as larger firms, but you can still make a significant contribution to reducing your eco-footprint. Here are my top 10 tips for quick, easy, low-cost things you can do in your organisation:

1. Reducing

Every time we make or produce anything it uses up some of the world’s resources. The best way to not use any resources is to not produce something in the first place. This is a difficult concept when you are business trying to sell goods. Why not encourage your customers to go for the quality products? These should last longer whilst giving you a better return.

2. Recycling

Think of all the packaging coming into your business. Hopefully you are already recycling some of it, but try to think of decreasing the amount of stuff you are sending to landfill. Try to avoid evils like polystyrene and low quality plastics (the stuff that everything seems to be wrapped in these days). In the UK they are difficult, if not impossible, to recycle and they can take many hundreds of years to decompose. Put pressure on your suppliers to deliver goods to you in packaging which is having less of an impact on the environment.

3. Re-using

Simple things like printing on paper that has already been printed on one side will reduce your paper use by half. This may not always be appropriate when you are printing for your customers, but can be used extensively internally.

4. Plastic bags

Supermarkets are the biggest users of plastic bags with over 12 billion being used every year! You’re probably not running a supermarket, but do you give your customers plastic bags as standard? Why not ask them if they need a bag? Bags are a good form of advertising, but think about the fact that bags can take up to 500 years to decompose and are made from our ever reducing supplies of oil.

5. Travel audit

How do you and other staff get to work? As outdoor people we have no excuses not to cycle, walk or run to work.  Why not ask all staff how they get to work and what would make them change to a more sustainable transport option. Sell the benefits to your employees or work mates, by pointing out how much they can save by getting to work without a car or have a fun competition ‘Sustainable transport employee of the month’ or maybe a catchier title.

6. Energy audit

Look into the energy used in your buildings or shops. Find out about the heating and lighting systems. Are there things that could be done to reduce the amount of energy you are using, whilst saving your organisation money? Thinking about roof insulation, reducing draughts, double glazing, turning off lights when not needed and so on, will all have an impact on the bills (and will reduce the cost to the environment).

7. Clean and brighten up your back yard

If there is some spare unused land near you, why not clean it up, plant some trees or even some edible plants. You may not see this as essential business, but how the environment looks has an effect on how we feel, so improving your local environment has got to be good for business.

 8. Check out the green credentials of your suppliers and products

We live in a very global world now with most of our consumables being produced abroad and shipped or flown to the UK. As well as supporting UK businesses by buying British, we are reducing the impact our consuming is having. Check out with your suppliers where the goods are coming from and if there is a closer to home alternative. Also find out about their practices. Are they doing anything to reduce their global footprint?

9. Encourage your customers to go green

You are, so why shouldn’t they? As users of the outdoors, your customers also have a responsibility. Encourage them to car-share or take a train to get out to their favourite crag or walking spot, encourage them to take litter home with them, encourage them to think about what they are buying and where it has come from. “Leave no trace” outings means not even leaving a cigarette butt on the floor so why not sell or give out pocket ash-trays for example?

10. Being green looks good!

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but many people in increasing numbers look for organisations that are seen to be doing their bit. Use your new green credentials in your advertising to keep your customers satisfied. If you are proud of the steps you are taking to ensure a green workplace, you can promote your organisation as adhering to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). (See the CSR section of http://www.businesslink.gov.uk for more details on this).

Happy sustainability!

Kate Wels works for Action for Sustainable Living, a Manchester based sustainability charity (for more details see: www.afsl.org.uk). The AfSL Green Champions Programme works with businesses, enabling them improve their sustainability and reduce their impact on the environment. You can contact Kate at: kate.wels@afsl.org.uk or 0161 237 3357.

ROG and the OIA

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

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

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.