The Outdoor Industry Aspires To Become Climate Positive

Outdoor manufacturers, suppliers and retailers joined OIA on January 27, for a big announcement and to learn how to prioritize opportunities to meet their targets faster through collaboration. If you weren’t there, here’s what you missed.

January 28, 2020

A record number of attendees joined this year’s OIA Sustainability Meetings on Monday, January 27, in Denver, two days ahead of the Outdoor + Snow Show. More than 250 individuals representing 100 outdoor gear and apparel companies packed the room to hear OIA Senior Director of Sustainable Business Amy Horton and REI CEO Eric Artz kick off the sessions with anannouncement of and a calling-in to the Climate Action Corps, the outdoor industry’s most ambitious collaborative effort to reduce our individual companies’ and our collective carbon footprint. Following their presentations, attendees spent the day learning more and diving deep into related topics including circularity and renewable energy. It was a very full day packed with insights, guidance and community. If you missed it, here are a few quick takeaways and noteworthy soundbites from the event.

1. “REI is not stepping into this because we think it’s fashionable or because it’s trending. We’re stepping in because we’re scared — scared that our outdoor playgrounds may face the threat of extinction if we don’t act in meaningful ways.” —Eric Artz, CEO, REI, one of the first 15 Founding Member companies to join the Climate Action Corps.

2. The Corps will support brands, retailers, manufacturers or suppliers — regardless of size or internal resources — to take a real, immediate, proactive and individualized approach to shrinking its own footprint, and it will signal the company’s earnest commitment to doing business better by:

  • Measuring their current carbon footprints
  • Setting ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets
  • Creating company-specific plans, and pursue reductions over time
  • Publicly sharing their progress annually

3. One of the easiest ways for all of us to reduce our impact as makers of stuff, is to keep the stuff we make in circulation longer. Jessie Curry facilitated a discussion and work session around the concept of circularity, in which she reminded the group that 96% of a finished product’s waste happened during production. “So the further you extend that product’s life, the more those past impacts are distributed over time and, thus, reduce the environmental cost for that product.”

4. What does that mean for the fate of a business predicated on producing gear and apparel? According to Brendan Condit, Business Development Director for Yerdle, it means opportunity in the form of recommerce. Condit  outlined a compelling business case that his clients have already realized: Resale allows companies to realize incremental revenue, new customer acquisition and greater loyalty and engagement from the customers they already have who are increasingly demanding more sustainability from the products they buy.

5. One of the biggest barriers and most intimidating prospects in the path to climate neutrality or climate positivity is the task of measuring your company’s carbon footprint. OIA’s Nikki Hodgson walked attendees through an afternoon session examining where the biggest emissions happen in most brands supply chains and which tools are available to begin measuring them. Representatives from the EPA, Climate Neutral and Higg Co. provided an overview of their measurement tools and reps from the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance discussed renewable energy procurement. All of those tools and resources will be made available to members of the Climate Action Corps. In fact, the team from Climate Neutral announced that they would offer the Climate Neutral emissions calculator tool for free to the first 50 companies that join the Climate Action Corps.

Download the Climate Actions Corps Field Guide, a digital overview of the program. If you’re ready to join, sign up here.