May 5, 2011

Development of the Outdoor Industry’s Environmental Assessment Index for Products Continues

The Outdoor Industry Association Eco Working Group (EWG), a collective of over 100 outdoor products companies, continues its work on the Eco Index: the outdoor industry’s collaboratively-developed environmental impact assessment tool for apparel, footwear and equipment. The Eco Index has been featured in recent media including Colorado Public Radio and, and was officially launched to the Chinese market in February by OIA Vice President of Government Affairs Amy Roberts at the ISPO China Exhibition in Beijing.

Ongoing work on the Eco Index includes an Equipment Subgroup, comprised of a dozen individuals from manufacturers of hardgoods products including Cascade Designs, REI, K2 Sports, Burton Snowboards, Marmot, and others. The group has begun the task of modifying the existing Eco Index content (in its current state, heavily tailored to textile-based products) to improve its relevancy to hardgoods such as skis, snowshoes, bicycles and tents and the unique materials of which they are comprised. This group’s work will eventually drive an equipment-specific Index tool module, allowing equipment manufacturers to more easily adopt the Eco Index and apply it to their products.

Several other subgroups will develop further Eco Index content in 2011, including Toxics and Chemistry metrics, methodologies and appropriate Indicator-level components as well as waste and material efficiency considerations. Two additional subgroups are being managed by the European Outdoor Group’s Sustainability Working Group, with participation by OIA EWG members: the Standards and Regulations subgroup, which is compiling a searchable online database of regulatory references; and the End of Life subgroup, which will expand upon the existing Eco Index End of Life Guidelines and Indicators.

In other subject areas, the Eco Index Facilities Indicators and Packaging Indicators have been revised based on feedback submitted via the fall 2010 Eco Index Pilot Program (in which over 100 companies participated) and are currently being revised once again based on responses to a second review period. New Transportation content was also approved in March by OIA EWG voting members (approximately 50 outdoor products companies, including Columbia Sportswear, Patagonia, REI and others, who pay membership dues to support the Eco Working Group.)  The new Transportation Indicators will appear on the Eco Index Beta website shortly.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, introduced March 1, continues to work alongside the OIA Eco Working Group to use the OIA Eco Index — in conjunction with Nike’s Materials Assessment Tool — as the basis for its apparel-specific environmental assessment tool. OIA is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition along with broader retailers and brands including Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, JC Penney, Gap, and Nike, as well as OIA Eco Working Group members Adidas, Levi’s, Mountain Equipment Co-op, New Balance, Patagonia, REI, The North Face, and Timberland.

For any other information about the OIA Eco Working Group or the Eco Index, please contact Beth Jensen, OIA corporate responsibilty manager.