2017: Ups and Downs But Always Forward

There were ups, and there were downs. Thanks to your support, through it all, we continue to move forward. Here’s a month-by-month look back on the work we did with you and on your behalf this past year.

December 21, 2017

In 2017, the industry activated like never before. We welcomed more than 300 new members this year while striving to serve our longtime members and supporters.

Still reeling from a surprise election outcome in November of 2016, we entered the new year at once realistic of impending uncertainties with the incoming administration and also hopeful and resolute that we could address the challenges.

Our Government Affairs team and you, our members, proved that, indeed, We Are A Force For Public Lands. As the battle was waged at the federal level, many policymakers including those in state and local governments, embraced the outdoor recreation economy. Many states invested in policies that would support recreation and promote healthy communities and healthy economies. Our Close To Home program saw some incredible victories with several states creating offices of outdoor recreation, and several more in the process.

So too did our Sustainable Business Innovation team, which continues to facilitate our industry’s thought-leadership in responsible supply chain practices.

Outdoor Participation has never been better or in better hands than it is with the Outdoor Foundation’s Parks4Kids program, a celebratory Outsider’s Ball and the biggest Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge ever. We capped the year off by hiring a new executive director.

In case you missed any of these stories or just want to take a stroll down memory lane, here’s a month-by-month review of 2017.

January: Election whiplash; boycott talk, nerd-iversaries and wicked savings
  • Winter (Market) of Our Discontent: The aisles of the Salt Palace were abuzz with talk of protest over Utah’s stance on public lands. Days later, Patagonia and several other brands publicly vowed to boycott Outdoor Retailer unless Utah’s political leadership reversed its position on the newly created Bears Ears National Monument, or unless the trade show was moved out of Salt Lake City. OIA’s government affairs team, under the leadership of Executive Director Amy Roberts, led the industry in voicing our opposition to Utah’s position and launching a campaign to champion the protection of all our nation’s public lands.
  • Joining Hands for Public Lands: To be sure we made our point, OIA and leaders from the industry wrote this open letter to the incoming administration. Hundreds of industry CEOs signed it, and it ran as a full-page ad in The Washington Post. Our message: “This is not a red or blue issue. It is an issue that affects our shared freedoms. Public lands should remain in public hands.” If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s this: The integrity and protection of our public lands is an absolute necessity.”
  • We Waved Our Nerd Flag High: In January, we celebrated 10 years of the OIA Sustainability Working Group. What began with a ragtag group of industry peers gathering in a small coffee shop in Salt Lake to discuss sustainability has since evolved into a powerful collaboration involving hundreds of outdoor industry companies and resulting in the world’s leading supply chain management tool, the Higg Index. We might be supply chain nerds, but we know how to party. We celebrated a decade of changemaking at Salt Lake City’s The State Room with ALO and a roomful of not-so-nerdy boogiers during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. Inspired, we ramped up efforts to increase outdoor industry adoption of the Higg Index, to help our members understanding of their environmental and social impact. This campaign resulted in an 83-percent increase of outdoor industry brands and facilities with Higg Index accounts (128 total outdoor industry accounts). We saw a 27-percent increase in brands posting modules, a 28-percent increase in facilities posting modules (850 facilities connected to outdoor industry companies posted modules). What do those numbers really mean? We’re killing it and committed to continuous improvement. Keep it up, outdoor industry. The adoption campaign continues…can we beat this year’s improvement?
  • We Saved You Money. We assembled more than 20 best-in-class vendor partners to offer preferred pricing to members. From booth discounts at the Outdoor Retailer shows to credit card processing, from digital marketing to promoting local retailers, OIA added an array of service discounts to your membership benefits package.
February: Idle threats aren’t us
  • Goodbye to U: Unfortunately, our arguments in favor of Utah’s monuments fell on deaf ears, and in February, OIA, along with the OIA Board of Directors, and Emerald Expositions, decided to end the two-decade relationship between Outdoor Retailer and Salt Lake City.
  • Winning the West: Amid trade show news and attacks on our national public lands, it would have been easy to miss some of the recreation policy work and wins happening close to home. But February brought a positive outlook for two big Western states, including California and Montana.
March: Tax decoder; ORECs rising
  • You Had Tax Questions; We Had Answers: Not surprisingly, outdoor companies had a lot of questions about how the border adjustment tax would work and the likelihood that it would actually become law. A record number of OIA members tuned in for a webinar we put on recently on this issue and we wrapped up the high points for good measure. We also offered updates on OIA’s official position on the backpack tax.
April: Spring awakening; more local victories
  • What’s Better Than Getting Mad? Getting Mobilized: In April, we hosted our largest ever Capitol Summit in Washington, DC, bringing 130 industry executives to our nation’s capital. We had more than 100 meetings with members of Congress and senior administration officials, including senior White House advisors to the president.
  • How big is $887 Billion? While in DC, with help from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, we launched the third, and newest, version of the Outdoor Recreation Economy report, establishing that the outdoor recreation industry annually contributes $887 billion to the U.S. economy while supporting 7.6 million good-paying, American jobs. To help spread the undeniable impact of our industry, we released this toolkit that members adopted and pushed out in record numbers. With your help, our impressive numbers were picked up by almost every major news market around the country, helping to illustrate the importance of outdoor recreation at local, state and national levels. We also saw the establishment of the first-ever House and Senate Outdoor Recreation Caucuses, an important step in solidifying a political voting block on outdoor industry policy issues. In addition, the first ever Congressional hearing on the economic power of the outdoor industry was held with several industry leaders, including Amy Roberts, testifying on opportunities for Congress to support this growing economic giant.Yet as this year went, with every success, came a new challenge. Just hours after we released our Outdoor Recreation Economy report and while we were conducting our meetings on the Hill, President Trump held an announcement of his own to issue an executive order to review more than two dozen national monument designations from the last 25 years. OIA responded with a a statement of our own, and reupped our commitment to defending our public lands.
May: Letters to Zinke; India or bust; we pledge allegiance to Paris and to Higgins
  • Comments For the Record: After the Capitol Summit, the administration launched a review of more than two dozen national monuments which had been designated by past presidents of both political parties under the 111-year-old, Antiquities Act, which was first signed into law and used by celebrated conservationist President Theodore Roosevelt. During that review, outdoorists from around the nation—including so many of you—generated nearly three million public comments. Almost all of them called on the president to keep all protections in place.
  • Have Thought Leadership, Will Travel: Team SBI went to India for the annual Sustainable Apparel Coalition meetings. We joined some of our members to visit factories and see firsthand the improvements that the Higg Index is helping to drive.
  • Climate Action: U.S. companies stepped up as the federal government stepped out: The OIA Government Affairs and SBI teams joined forces to launch a CEO Climate Pledge at Mountainfilm in Telluride, Colorado. More than 50 outdoor and ski industry leaders, athletes, local business leaders and local elected officials gathered for a day of education and perspective, followed by an open forum discussion.
  • Ready, Set, Post! May 31 was the deadline for posting 2016 Higg Index Brand Modules. More than 80 percent of all posted brand modules on the Higg platform were from OIA members. Go, team.
  • Can you Higg It? We signed new partnership agreement with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition securing a discounted Higg Index access rate for both OIA and Sustainability Working Group Leadership Members.
  • Oregon Outdoors: On May 23, HB 2143 was signed by Governor Brown, officially designating the first Saturday in June of each year as Oregon Outdoor Recreation Day.
June: OIA saving you $$; Zinke wants to shrink Bears Ears; states stepping up for recreation
  • What a Relief: One of our most significant policy victories of the year came over the summer when President Trump signed an order making certain backpacks, duffel bags, and other travel goods eligible for duty free access to the U.S. market under the Generalized System of Preferences. This change will result in an estimated $90 million in annual savings for manufacturers and retailers. OIA also led the industry’s participation in the miscellaneous tariff bill process, a Congressional initiative to suspend import tariffs for qualifying products. OIA secured the inclusion of 10 individual legislative bills in the MTB package, with tens of millions of dollars in savings on the horizon in the new year.
  • What a Disappointment: Despite overwhelming support to keep the monument as designated, Secretary Zinke issued an Interim Report to President Trump that recommended the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument be revised. The recommendation would reduce and potentially break up the monument and the protection it provides into sub-divisions that may or may not ensure protections for the recreation assets within the current monument going forward.
  • What an Exciting Trend: In what is becoming an exciting and growing trend across the country, North Carolina established an Outdoor Recreation Recruitment Director within the state’s Commerce Department to promote North Carolina’s outdoor recreation economy and to assist in the recruitment of new businesses to the state.
July: Big announcements; big movements; big voices
  • We Marched on Utah: In a fitting farewell, we lived up our last visit to Salt Lake City and showed our continued commitment to the state’s public lands by leading a peaceful and powerful march to and rally on the capitol steps. During the final Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City, nearly 3,000 people marched to the state capitol to show their support for our public lands. Spirits were high, the celebration was great, and the goodbyes were heartfelt. Watch the video.
  • We Gave Back to Utah: The Outdoor Foundation’s Parks4Kids program launched a dozen Utah-based projects to help get Utah kids outdoors on their public lands. Through Jeremy Collins hat and t-shirt sales featuring Jeremy Collins artwork, (the latter supported by a generous grant from REI) we raised nearly $50,000 for programs like Youth Works in the Parks, based in Moab.
  • We Partied for a Purpose: Every year, the outdoor industry’s best party, Outsiders Ball, gets bigger and better. But what happens there doesn’t stay there. Funds raised at the party support incredible youth programs across the country. In 2017, our Outsiders Ball had 35 brand sponsored, and the event raised $140,000 for projects like the ones featured here. Interested in sponsoring the 2018 Ball?
  • And Set Our Sites on Denver: Outdoor Retailer, the largest U.S. tradeshow for the outdoor community, chose Denver for all shows beginning January 2018. Amy Roberts explained what it means for OIA members.
August: Zinke and the proverbial canary in the coal mine; outdoor participation on the rise
September: Climate commitments; cutting recreation red tape; the Golden State’s golden boy
  • Sustainability Isn’t Just Political; It’s Business: The outdoor and other industries gathered in New York for Climate Week to discuss proactive ways to address climate change.
  • No More Red Tape: It wasn’t the first time we told you about the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act and it won’t be the last. Here are seven reasons our policy team is supporting it, and how you can see it to the finish line.
  • California’s Word is Its Bond: California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a $4 billion bond with a variety of provisions – from parks and outdoor access to climate adaptation and resilience – that supports the state’s thriving $92 billion outdoor recreation economy. This was just another leadership move from a Western state that has recognized and invested in its outdoor recreation economy.
October: Dear Donald; healthy rivalries
  • Public Lands in Trump’s Hands: Following Zinke’s monument recommendations, we penned another letter, this one directly to President Trump, with nearly 400 industry executives advocating again for him to protect our shared heritage and America’s public lands.
  • Winner Winner! In the four-week Mother Nature meets March Madness Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge competition, participants at or affiliated with 92 colleges and universities logged outdoor activities to earn points. It was our most successful Campus Challenge yet and it shows no sign of slowing.
  • With Our Powers Combined: We co-hosted a multi-stakeholder Microfibers Summit with The Ocean Conservancy at the University of California Santa Barbara and emerged with a cross-industry workplan with tangible steps for each stakeholder group.

November: Wyoming in the W column; Tools, tools everywhere

  • Wins in Wyoming: In a Western state where the economy is heavily supported by coal, two new reports suggested the Republican governor is eyeing outdoor business and recreation for the state’s long-term economic viability.
  • Buh Bye Audit Fatigue: Hello to smarter analytics and efficiencies with the Higg Index Facility Environmental Module 3.0. It reduces audit fatigue, introduces questions relevant to factory types, offers smarter analytics, and provides enhanced training and improvement resources. It is already used globally by more than 8,000 leading businesses, and we’re committed to supporting Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s goal for use by 20,000 facilities by 2020.
  • Getting Started Guides for Sustainable Materials and Chemicals Management: Collaboratively developed by the OIA Sustainability Working Group and intended to provide guidance and training for both brands and suppliers, you can access these easy-to-use tools for free on the OIA website. Learn more here.

December: Dark days for national monuments; bright lights on precompetitive collaboration; the Foundation’s first-round draft pick; the gift that keeps on giving

  • December 4 Will Live in Infamy: It’s the day President Trump ignored 98 percent of Americans, traveled to Salt Lake City and rolled back protections for more than two million acres of public lands in the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments, the largest rollback of such protections in American history and a blow to Utah’s outdoor recreation economy. The response from the industry and outdoorists nationwide was swift and loud, as 5,402 individuals used outdoorindustry.org/advocacy to write 16,705 letters to 526 members of Congress opposing the president’s decision. It was the largest response on a policy issue in OIA’s history. The movement to advance the recreation economy and protect America’s public lands and waters will carry on in 2018.
  • Wyoming commits to the outdoor recreation economy and establishes an office of outdoor recreation.
  • And The Award for Most Formally Dressed at an Award Ceremony Goes To…: …not us. But the OIA SWG did win the Colorado Business Roundtable: Collaboration in Industry Award for Manufacturing. The shiny new award is inspiring, but not as inspiring as the collaboration that earned it.
  • Cream of the Crop: The Outdoor Foundation announced it hired a field-biologist-turned-conservation-champion-turned-outdoor-leader to lead OIA’s philanthropic arm into the future. Lise Aangenbrug, welcome aboard.
  • OIA Hikes the Hike: In a show of appreciation for the work the OIA staff did in 2017 and in a show of solidarity with all who have fought for public lands, the leadership team put true outdoorist gift certificates in the staff’s stockings, giving everyone the option to purchase a national or state parks pass or to book an overnight yurt, cabin or camping trip on our nation’s public lands. We can’t think of a better way to wrap 2017.
  • Except Perhaps Like This: Welcome to our newest OIA members

The OIA staff is incredibly grateful for the support of our members. We couldn’t move the needle on important issues without your calls, your letters, your support and all of the hard work of our member companies.

In 2017, outdoorists everywhere showed up in force to fight for what they believe in. We’re headed into 2018 more united than ever and ready to continue fighting for healthy communities and healthy recreation economies across the nation.

Happy Holidays. See you in 2018.