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.