The Momentum and Vision behind the OIA Sustainability Working Group

Feb 1, 2012

Topics: Business, Sustainability, Working Groups

In the past year, the Outdoor Industry Association® Sustainability Working Group (formerly Eco Working Group), has completed revolutionary work in the fields of equipment, social responsibility, footwear, materials traceability, and chemical management, further bolstered by partnerships that were recognized in the Harvard Business Review and Greenbiz.com.

Comprised of more than 400 individuals from approximately 200 OIA member companies, the SWG created the OIA Eco Index, a groundbreaking tool that enables apparel manufacturers to quantify sustainability practices throughout the supply chain.

In 2011, SWG forged a partnership with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), allowing the SAC to combine the Eco Index with Nike’s Materials Sustainability Index data into what is now known as the “Apparel Tool.”  The V1 Apparel Index, which began pilot testing in September, enables stakeholders to assess the environmental impact of their brands, products, and suppliers (social/fair labor indicators are slated for future versions). The SAC currently represents approximately 30 percent of the global apparel supply chain. More than 60 companies participated in the pilot of the V1 Apparel Tool this past year.

In order to expand on the Apparel Index, OIA oversees several other sustainability working groups, including:

•    Materials Traceability (in partnership with Textile Exchange)
•    Equipment
•    Social Responsibility
•    Footwear
•    Chemicals Management

These working groups include members of the OIA community, as well as content experts from government, non-profit organizations, and industry leaders outside of OIA.  The goal of these groups is to establish a common approach to evaluating the environmental and social sustainability of a wide range of products.

Momentum Continues in 2012
At Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, more 100 SWG members met with fellow working group members to collaborate on various topics. Below is a list of some of what they accomplished:

  • The Chemical Management Working Group further refined a matrix, which is still under development and is designed to assist companies in measuring, evaluating, and managing chemicals throughout the product supply chain.
  • The Social Responsibility Working Group created a 2012 plan to develop educational tools to assist member companies in implementing social responsibility into their supply chains.
  • The Equipment Working Group finalized a set of indicators that will serve as the first draft of an Equipment Index tool, based on the current Apparel Index tool.
  • The Footwear Working Group met to discuss their 2012 work plan to develop a Footwear Index tool, using inputs from the existing Apparel Index and the draft Equipment Index.
  • The Materials Traceability Working Group held its first meeting and began to explore the challenges in the down supply chain, as well as the need for a robust Content Claim Standard.

The Materials Traceability Working Group, in conjunction with OIA Outdoor University®, conducted two panel discussions on the down and wool supply chains — two very complex and different supply chains that are integral to many OIA members. The wool panel discussion was recorded and will be available at outdoorindustry.org/ou early February.

OIA Commits to Corporate Responsibility
OIA is committed to providing leadership in corporate responsibility. To demonstrate this, OIA created a new OIA Corporate Responsibility department which will guide the work of the SWG. Together, they will focus on activities that help member companies advance and adopt standards such as the Apparel/Eco Index, articulate the business case for implementing sustainable business practices, and support the industry’s continued global thought leadership.

We invite you to join the SWG as we continue to forge a path of innovation that will keep the outdoor industry on the leading edge of corporate responsibility thought and practice.

For more information, contact Beth Jensen, OIA Director of Corporate Responsibility or Stephanie Bennett, OIA Corporate Responsibility Manager.