July 22, 2010

The Eco Index: an Environmental Assessment for, and by, the Outdoor Industry.

“There is no business to be done on a dead planet.”

Companies in the outdoor industry are known for taking a strong stance on the environment, and many brands, like Patagonia, have become synonymous with the environmental movement. Business for these companies depends on people using the outdoors, after all, so it makes sense that they would protect it. Sure, it’s easy to argue that maybe the best option for the environment would be to stop producing products at all. But let’s be realistic: we live in a consumer society, and that society isn’tmaking a drastic change anytime soon.

In the business-driven society, then, it’s important to focus on companies that are committed to social responsibility, and creating products that respect the environment while thinking about our own consumption habits and our impact. After all, like legendary Sierra Club executive director David Brower once said,

“There is no business to be done on a dead planet.”

With the general rise in eco-consciousness when it comes to products and brands amongst the consumer base, the outdoor industry quickly realized that it might be time to take more steps toward being a role model in how business can be a catalyst for change. And so the Outdoor Industry Eco Working Group was created. While the goal was simple: to provide an index that would allow companies to rank the impact of their entire supply chain; developing it and implementing it was anything but.

Last year I attended one of the Eco Working Group meetings at REI headquarters in Seattle. Putting something together of this scope isn’t simple, and even with some of the biggest and brightest names in the industry, establishing what to measure and how to measure it was anything but easy. But now, after three years of hard work, the Eco Index is online and ready for companies to pilot, and is getting rolled out at next month’s Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City.

The environmental assessment tool isn’t going to have an impact on consumers just yet, but eventually it could with ratings and standards printed directly on packages.

Some argue that the effort isn’t enough, and that to make real change there needs to be a quicker approach. Timberland Co. is already printing its own version of green rating on its products. “Our industry is flirting with getting this right,” says Jeff Swartz, chief executive of Timberland Co. in a Wall Street Journal article.

But “flirting” with getting right is certainly better than not getting it right at all, and as outdoor brands move forward with the Eco Index, hopefully it can evolve into a model that other industries can incorporate into their own structures. Then we’ll really be talking about business being a catalyst for positive change.

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Anna Brones  |  Contribution: 6,820