Beth

Best-Practices: A license to do business

For Beth Jensen, Senior Director of Sustainable Business Innovation for OIA and member of Suston’s editorial board, developing sustainability standards and tools is no longer enough – the outdoor industry needs to prove it’s actually reducing the impacts it set out to address.

While the outdoor industry’s fight to protect public lands in the U.S. has been getting plenty of attention over the past several years, there is also the other, often overlooked angle into the conservation discussion: how might the manufacturing of gear we use to recreate actually be harming the very lands we are seeking to protect?

As those in the industry are acutely aware, supply chains are enormously complex and globally dispersed. Making change within this system is a true challenge, one that an individual company can hardly address alone at the level of scale needed, particularly given the widespread occurrence of competitor brands sharing the same supplier partners.

But for over ten years, the members of the Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group (OIA SWG)—product designers, quality managers, sustainability professionals, and others—have put aside the competitive mindset to develop solutions to the industry’s shared supply chain challenges, with the ultimate goal of reducing the industry’s impacts on the environment and ensuring that workers and animals are treated well.

I think we have reached a tipping point in this work. The OIA SWG spent most of the past decade aligning on shared definitions of supply chain “best practices” that did not yet exist, then collaboratively creating the tools that would be necessary to implement them.

However, the outdoor industry’s sustainability leadership can no longer solely rest on the number of tools and standards created. We must now show proof that we are actually reducing or eliminating the impacts we set out to address. It’s time for the entire industry to prioritize broad adoption of the shared best practices, then measurement of tangible progress, as a “license to do business.”

While we don’t have it all figured out, we’re working on it—together—and in the process, proving that business can indeed be a force for good.

– Beth Jensen, Senior Director of Sustainable Business Innovation for Outdoor Industry Association

Beth Jensen
bjensen@outdoorindustry.org