Sustainability: The First Step Is The Hardest

“We want to make sure the gear we use doesn’t come at the expense of the places that we love,” says Nikki Hodgson, sustainable business innovation manager for the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).

In this series of profiles, we feature outdoor brands that began with small or isolated efforts and then dived more deeply into exploring supply chains, studying data, collaborating with other outdoor brands and using auditing tools like the Higg Index to grow their sustainability programs in substantive ways.


A company philosophy or statement about sustainability is just window dressing without action. And action requires data.


After auditing its supply chain with the Higg Index and making a series of small but impactful steps, now Yakima is working to get its own suppliers on a better path.


This family-owned footwear company makes protecting the environment a guiding principle.


Based in Salt Lake City, this young, scrappy snowboard company illustrates how startup manufacturers in the outdoor industry might approach sustainability in a new way—from the ground up.


It is also surprisingly yet elusively obvious. For attendees of the intensive one-day workshop, walking the walk on corporate sustainability strategy begins by looking for impact opportunities in the places most companies ignore.


How NEMO Equipment and Showers Pass turned baby steps into giant strides toward sustainability.


It would be hard to find an outdoor company that doesn’t consider sustainability a worthy goal. Protecting the environment is a natural fit for outdoor brands, yet there’s an irony here.

While wise outdoor brands may endeavor to protect the places where their products are enjoyed, the sustainability efforts at many companies today remain fairly superficial and often don’t dig into the place where we can make the biggest and most impactful change: the supply chain. Launching a sustainability program that’s strategic, targeted, and that has meaningful impact is certainly possible, though it may seem daunting at first. “It’s a complex problem,” says Hodgson. “There’s so much to be done, and the best way to tackle it is collaboration in the outdoor industry.” But also, companies can’t blindly go forward, says Hodgson. “You need data. Tools like the Higg Index drive action.” And after that? Companies can look to OIA’s Sustainability Working Group (SWG) for resources, training, and the collaborative support of a network of like-minded companies.