Champions of Change: KEEN, Columbia, Icebreaker, and Adidas

Cred­it: EcoIndexBeta.Org

With the great out­doors as its play­ground, it’s no won­der the out­door indus­try con­tin­ues to lead the way in prac­tic­ing cor­po­rate envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty, and their impres­sive efforts have not gone unno­ticed. Last week, The White House hon­ored the Out­door Indus­try Asso­ci­a­tion with the Cham­pi­ons of Change award, rec­og­niz­ing the association’s Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Work­ing Group and the group’s devel­op­ment of the Eco Index.

The Eco Index is an open-source, web-based soft­ware tool which allows prod­uct design­ers in the out­door indus­try to input and eval­u­ate source mate­ri­als that reduce the envi­ron­men­tal impact of their prod­ucts. A few of our brand part­ners and Port­land neigh­bors includ­ing Ice­break­er, KEEN, Colum­bia, and Adi­das have been ear­ly adopters of the soft­ware. The pilot pro­gram of the Eco Index evolved to become appar­el spe­cif­ic with assess­ments for footwear and equip­ment in development.

What does this mean for the indus­try and its con­sumers? The pro­gram allows the design­ers to track and improve upon their prod­ucts’ envi­ron­men­tal impact con­sid­er­ing mate­r­i­al types and sourc­ing, labor prac­tices, waste, and pack­ag­ing while cre­at­ing trans­paren­cy between man­u­fac­tur­ers and sup­pli­ers. While it’s still a few years off, the goal is to pro­vide con­sumers with an eco-tag – much like nutri­tion­al facts list­ed on food prod­ucts – so that they’re more con­scious of their pur­chas­ing deci­sions and the brands they support.

While some brands already offer up trans­paren­cy in what goes into their prod­ucts (Ice­break­er pro­vides cus­tomers with a code enabling them track their meri­no wool back to the exact sheep who donat­ed it), the effects of an eco-tag would go beyond con­sumer edu­ca­tion. Out­door gear and appar­el com­pa­nies would be chal­lenged to con­sid­er the envi­ron­men­tal impact of each step of their prod­ucts’ devel­op­ment and com­peti­tors would be forced to step up their game, which is what we call a win-win for consumers.

For more infor­ma­tion on the Eco Index vis­it here.