Yes, We Agree With Auden Schendler. And…

In the fight for climate action, advocacy alone is not enough.

By Nikki Hodgson January 17, 2017


Several months ago at OIA’s Rendezvous and again at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2017, Auden Schendler, VP of Sustainability for Aspen Skiing Company and board chair of Protect Our Winters, laid out the case for why the outdoor industry must be far more vocal about the need for climate action.

Yes, and…

In making the case, he could have done even more to reinforce the importance of mitigating supply chain impacts. This is not an either/or situation. Mitigation is just as important.

Before I shifted my focus to supply chain sustainability, I worked on climate policy—I researched adaptation and mitigation policy for organizations like Friends of the Earth Middle East and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. I attended COP18 as a youth delegate on behalf of the Global Campaign for Climate Action, and I left that COP more determined than ever to put pressure on U.S. lawmakers to act. I believed then as I believe now that the outdoor industry has a vital role to play in helping to inspire action. As an industry, we can and should do more. We must be as bold in the political arena as we are in the mountains.

However, to downplay or ignore the necessity of mitigating the environmental impacts of our operations is a misstep. Advocacy is crucial, but advocacy alone is not enough. There are huge impacts associated with manufacturing, transportation, packaging, and disposing of products, and we cannot ignore those impacts, even while championing climate action.

Advocacy is crucial, but advocacy alone is not enough.

Schendler gave a shout-out to companies that have supported climate action through op-eds, public awareness campaigns and other initiatives. All of the companies mentioned (Burton, The North Face, Patagonia, and Black Diamond) are simultaneously driving progress in the supply chain and have been involved in the collaborative sustainability work of the outdoor industry over the past decade. All of those companies recognize that tackling this from both sides is crucial. To highlight their strong stance on the need for climate action, while ignoring the robust work they have done in the supply chain is to tell only half the story.

One company addressing its environmental impact may seem like a drop in the bucket in the face of unmitigated climate change, but one company on its own has never been the goal of the collaborative industry work. Our goal, through the Sustainability Working Group and the Higg Index, is to align an entire industry around an ambitious and aspirational system for measuring our impact and making largescale changes in the global supply chain. Changes that can help inspire robust and effective policy, reduce the carbon emissions of entire industries and countries, increase the durability of goods, get us closer to a closed-loop system, and normalize the question, “how can we do this better?”

Interested in joining the Sustainability Working Group? We’re always looking for more committed members who want to improve their own supply chain and the industry’s as a whole.

It is these supply chain solutions and industry initiatives that will help inspire the policies and political will needed to reduce CO2 to 350ppm or less. It is this commitment to action and collaboration that further lends us the credibility to speak. We have to look inward as well as outward and drive change through actions, great and small. We must act wherever and however we can.

Schendler made an inspiring case for taking the risk to speak out and a compelling call to action for the outdoor industry. I echo that: Who among us wouldn’t? But I also urge companies not to underestimate the importance of supply chain sustainability and addressing their environmental impact in this fight.

In the same way that reducing its carbon emissions doesn’t give a company license to be quiet on this issue, neither does expressing public support for climate action excuse a company from addressing the impact of its own operations. Both are crucial components of driving the change we need. And Together We Are a Force.

Learn more about our Sustainability Working Group, the Higg Index and what OIA member companies are doing to move the needle. Have questions? Reach out to our Sustainable Business Innovation team.