Over the last few years, climate initiatives within the outdoor industry can be summarized in three words: measurements, offsetting and commitments. But while clear data and bold targets are important, effective action is what truly counts. Suston reached out to the industry organizations to hear how they help brands and suppliers to get going.
“It’s now or never,” says Jim Skea, co-chair of one of the latest UN climate report’s working groups with respect to limiting global warming to 1.5°C and avoiding catastrophic climate change.
Time is indeed short, and much is at stake. Seeing that the outdoor industry must bear its share of responsibility in contributing to global warming, and that the outdoor experience itself is threatened, industry actors are rising to the call.
Among them is European Outdoor Group (EOG), which in 2020 launched the Climate Action Programme (CAP). EOG’s Sustainability Project Manager Verity Hardy explains:
“In response to global reports on the worsening climate crisis, the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement and increasing consumer interest in sustainability, CAP was launched to support EOG members in addressing climate action both within their organizations and across their global supply chains.”
CAP encompasses a range of comprehensive and growing initiatives, all of which share the same goal of bringing members in line with science-based targets by halving emissions every decade until 2050. EOG members, however, represent a diverse range of companies of different shapes, sizes, and states of readiness to tackle such an unprecedented challenge. So, to have any chance of meeting this goal, EOG understood that many of its members would need to first get up to speed.
“To help members get started, we have developed topic-specific guidance documents. These ”how-to-get-started” guides contain signposts to online tools and links to organizations where they can gather further information, which are updated annually to ensure the information is current and relevant,” shares Verity Hardy.
This information is updated annually to ensure it remains current and relevant. Topics include those which brands will typically encounter on their climate journey such as inventory planning, gathering data, target setting, undertaking reduction measures and reporting, and these are each broken down further into manageable steps.
“Most importantly, EOG has created a space where members can ask questions of each other, share experiences and engage in peer-to-peer learning, and this has encouraged a feeling of openness, support and community amongst them”
Scope 3 takes a team effort
With the basics covered, EOG simultaneously set about building greater capacity for effective change by better understanding where its members’ emissions were coming from. In line with other research, the answer was clear: Most emissions come from outside a business’ immediate operations, and largely outside their direct control in manufacturing plants in southeast Asia.
To take on these emissions, the focus would rest squarely on doing one of the things EOG does best: leveraging the collective, pre-competitive interests of its members through collective action. As Verity Hardy shares:
“Under the umbrella of this programme, we have also launched a spin-off project, the Supply Chain Decarbonisation Project (SCDP), which focusses on brands working collaboratively with their shared suppliers to reduce GHG emissions and increase the use of renewable energy.”
Verity Hardy continues to explain that while supply chains are global and diverse, the SCDP seeks to capitalize on the fact that outdoor brands who share production facilities can jointly engage their shared suppliers, significantly reduce their individual financial outlay per facility intervention, and take real action towards the decarbonization of the industry.
The project is organized into three stages, beginning with a mapping exercise of the brands’ top tier 1 and 2 supplier networks, which confirmed that there is a degree of crossover in the facilities used. The second stage, currently underway, involves the engagement of external partners to conduct facility audits to identify GHG hotspots and potential savings.
“The preliminary desktop audits have estimated a maximum potential absolute carbon saving of 165,000 tonnes in the next 3-5 years from the 18 shared facilities, however the next phase (where more detailed data is gathered) will generate more accurate predictions and individual facility action plans.”
A final stage will see the participating brands jointly supporting and financing facility improvements, after which we will know the precisely measured impact of the project.
Once opportunities have been identified within SCDP, the next step will be for brands and their shared suppliers to begin implementing emissions reducing measures. Crucial to this effort will be the issue of financing, which will require far greater investments than current brand CSR budgets allow. In response, EOG is exploring the potential to create a decarbonization fund to support large-scale decarbonization projects.
“We believe that this may be a great opportunity to approach decarbonization differently, to engage the collaborative spirit and resilience for which the industry is well known, as well as a way to take advantage of opportunities such as the overlaps in supply chains that our industry provides us.”
United in the Corps
North American brands and suppliers, meanwhile, can look to Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) Climate Action Corps, launched in 2020 to help outdoor companies get on track with science-based emission targets. Today, members of the Corps have taken it up a notch to lead the ambitious charge towards the outdoor industry becoming the world’s first climate positive industry. And not just at the brand level. The goal is to reduce GHG emissions across all scopes in line with science-based targets, removing even more GHG from the atmosphere than one emits and advocating for broader systemic change. And it wants to achieve this by 2030, a full two decades ahead of the Paris Agreement target.
“To make this goal viable, OIA prioritizes connecting its Corps members under various collaborations while also offering resources to support them whether they be climate beginners or advanced,” shares Sarah Rykal, Senior Manager of Impact for OIA’s Climate Action Corps.
Active online community
Today, there are over 100 Corps members, including brands like Arc’teryx and The North Face, the retailers REI and MEC, ingredient brands like Gore and Primaloft and other actors both large and small within the industry.
“OIA today hosts a very active online community that enables Corps members to connect with each other, and it also contains a wealth of reference materials, tools, webinar recordings and the like to help them get started.”
The publication Climate Action Corps Guidebook, for example, provides guidance and recommended pathways to help members save time, money and effort in setting up and implementing their own climate strategy. Tools include free or discounted measurement tools such as Higg Index and Climate Neutral’s BEE tool, as well as guidance in their use. At the webinars, members learn more about GHG measurement, target-setting, reduction and climate mitigation advocacy.
Energy emissions, meanwhile, are the topic of OIA’s Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA) Aggregation CoLab, which aims to convene Corps members to effect change in scope 2 (see fact box), mainly by collective sourcing of renewable energy for operations in the U.S. and Canada.
Enabling change in the supply chain
But to reach the Corps’ bold 2030 goal, this is far from enough. Here, OIA makes the same conclusion as EOG: The vast majority of emissions are found in scope 3, and most often outside North America. To address this, OIA has a variety of impact collaborations that focus especially on these emissions and enable companies to dig deep into their supply chains.
Such as the OIA’s Carbon Leadership Project CoLab, which aims to measure emissions and set reduction targets with its members’ soft goods and textiles suppliers in Asia and Latin America. Or its newly launched Drinkware CoLab to reduce emissions across shared drinkware supply chains.
But Sarah Rykal is particularly looking forward to the launch of the OIA Clean Energy Investment Accelerator (CEIA) CoLab:
“The goal of OIA’s CEIA CoLab is to aggregate a solar energy procurement for soft and hard goods supplier facilities in Vietnam. We consider Vietnam as not only a key manufacturing hub, but also one with a mature solar industry that is ready for commercially viable solar installations.”
By teaming up participating outdoor brands within the Climate Action Corps with their suppliers, these production facilities will be able to make a much more rapid transition to renewables.
“This can lead to dramatic scope 3 emissions reductions,” shares Sarah Rykal, before concluding:
“And even more importantly, learnings here can then be replicated across the entire supply chain in other countries.”
What are Scopes 1, 2 & 3?
Carbon reporting is usually aligned with the GHG Protocol, that divides greenhouse gas emissions into the following three “scopes:”
Scope 1 – Direct emissions from company-controlled entities like its facilities, operations, and vehicles.
Scope 2 – Indirect emissions resulting from a company’s purchased energy and utilities.
Scope 3 – All indirect company emissions within its value chain, which are not included in scope 2.
Lead Photo: Ilkerergun / iStockphoto.com