Did Sustainability Make a Comeback at the Summer Shows?

At this summer’s fairs OutDoor by ISPO and OR, many of the outdoor industry’s sustainability experts gathered – finally! Suston’s editor-in-chief was in Munich and our partner at the Ranger Station talks about the highlights of the Denver trade show.

There was an expectant atmosphere in the air when OutDoor by ISPO opened its doors on Sunday 12 June – this time in the temporary, slightly smaller exhibition halls in the MOC (Munich Order and Convention Center). The format was also smaller than before the pandemic, with fewer brands, smaller stands and fewer visitors. Still, from the many happy reunions both during the day and in the evening, it was clear that representatives of the European outdoor industry had been longing for this.  “Finally, we can see each other for real!” was a phrase that echoed throughout the event.

The show was also much anticipated by the sustainability folks, whereby The Sustainability Hub – unfortunately without a stage or lectures this time – was their natural gathering point. Here, Cira Riedel and Anna Rodewald from Greenroom Voice were once again responsible for an exhibition, this time with about twenty brands. This summer’s theme was Traceability and Transparency. Every day at 11 am, visitors gathered for a guided tour where Anna Rodewald and representatives of the brands told more via headsets.

In a conference room next door, meanwhile, the sustainability team from the European Outdoor Group arranged their sustainability seminars and panel discussions. In other halls, too, different aspects of sustainability and CSR were highlighted in various presentations and discussions, for example in the Adventure Tourism niche.

From a journalistic point of view, the fair’s smaller format and program were appreciated as this made it much easier to get an overview. But an undeniable impression is that sustainability & CSR have lost some of the common energy and forward momentum that existed just prior to the pandemic. The focus is now more on one’s own business and the “here and now.” Here, troublesome global logistics and supply chains certainly play a role. As one CEO put it, “Nowadays we almost only work with problem-solving. Long-term issues have been put on hold.”

Many within the industry agree that fairs – and similar meeting places – fulfill an important function. It is in the meeting between people, ideas, and solutions that collective synergies arise. And although pure sustainability conferences are needed to go deeper, it is also valuable to discuss sustainability with representatives from all parts of the industry – from CEOs to floor staff.

3 important themes from OutDoor by ISPO

So, which topics were the hottest? Here is Suston’s somewhat subjective view of the matter after wrapping up three days at OutDoor by ISPO:

* Equipment and infrastructure for textile recycling

Recycling of textile materials is beginning to be scaled up from test projects to industrial manufacturing (which we just wrote about in Suston). But for a more circular outdoor industry to emerge, the supply of raw materials must be better managed. How and where should end-of-life garments and products be collected? How should they be sorted to match the needs of plants X, Y, Z? How will logistics and raw material supply look like in order to be sustainable in the long term – both financially and environmentally? Several lectures and discussions revolved around these topics, though we suspect the audience was left with more questions than answers.

* EU and justify green claims

The outdoor industry – like many industries – has in recent years become a wild jungle when it comes to how sustainability is communicated. Campaigns highlight various “hero products” (and do not mention the rest of the range), terms such as “climate neutral” are widely used and several companies have launched their own eco-labels. With the EU now raising the requirements for various “green claims,” uncertainty has begun to spread within the industry. What exactly can you say, and what can you not? The Norwegian state’s criticism of Norröna’s use Higg MSI was frequently discussed across café tables as a cautionary tale of the tougher requirements of a not-so-distant future. Suston has followed Higg for some time, and will be sure to look into this in greater depth. But the basic idea is plain and simple: You should be able to support with facts that you practice what you preach.

* Retailers are stepping up

We have also written about this recently in Suston: Retailers around Europe (as well as in North America) have for several years taken note of customers’ growing interest in brands, products, materials, working conditions etc. Now, more and more retailers are concluding that their own businesses must also change with more “green electricity” and fewer single-use plastic bags, to name a few. But it turns out that the most effective way to change their business in a more sustainable direction is to choose suppliers who do their work for them, so to speak. Brands that can easily and clearly report the environmental impact at the product level will therefore stand to benefit as retailers increasingly raise the benchmarks of what gets past their doors.

Gear highlights

Finally: What would a fair be without innovative products? Here are a few interesting and promising new arrivals:

Credit: Osprey

* 100% recycled from Osprey

Talon Earth 22 is – so far – a limited edition where Osprey has manufactured the entire backpack from recycled materials, inside and out, from top to bottom. n by sourcing recycled fabrics inside and out, top to bottom. Roughly half of the plastic hardware is also bluesign® approved and made from certified-renewable natural gas. Even the zippers and woven labels are recycled. Backpacks in many cases require more durability than clothes do and it will be interesting to test if the materials in the Talon Earth model withstand harsh conditions and a lot of tear and wear.

Credit: Primus

* Winning gas from Primus

The Scandinavian Outdoor Award is awarded every summer and winter in several categories. This year, Victoria Reim from Team Suston was part of the jury, who especially liked the latest from the Swedish company Primus in the “Sustainability” category. Their new SIP Power Gas is produced entirely in Europe, from fuel production and filling process to the production of steel in the tank. In addition: For each gas container sold, exactly the same amount of Swedish biogas (produced from food waste) is then purchased for further use in Sweden. This principle, called mass balance, is intended to support the growing market for fossil-free fuels. As the jury says: “With the SIP Power Gas, Primus brings sustainability into the outdoor gas fuel market.”

Credit: La Sportiva

* Re-soling made easier

In climbing, it has been common to resole one’s shoes for decades. One of the companies that worked most systematically with this is Italian La Sportiva. Since 2012, it offers a network of selected and authorized resolers operating in more than ten European markets. With the new model TX4 R, La Sportiva now also opens for resoling approach shoes. The TXR R is designed with the brand new resole platform, presented in the SS22 season. The rubber sole from Vibram is easier to separate from the shoe and replace with a new one by any of the operators in the resoler network.

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Recap

Jeanine Pesce, Founder of This Is Range

Outdoor Retailer rung in its 40th anniversary with one final Summer Market in Denver before it moves back to its traditional stomping grounds in Salt Lake City, Utah (Find out why it left in the first place here). Unfortunately, Suston was unable to attend this time around, but asked our friends at The Ranger’s Station to keep us up to speed with the latest in outdoor sustainability and inclusion from across the pond.

“Before OR’s move back to Salt Lake City, we made the absolute best of it in Denver where we successfully produced three days of activations at The Ranger Station in Venture Out,” shares Jeanine Pesce, The Ranger Station’s organizer.

For those who don’t know, Jeanine Pesce explains that Venture Out is where design-driven product, style, sustainability and innovation intersect. In partnership with Outdoor Retailer, three SP24 trends were highlighted at The Ranger Station: Earthcore, Soft Launch and Fluid Futures. Here’s Jeanine Pesce’s recap of those trends and associated brands.

Trend 1. Earthcore

“Sustainably-minded materials that utilize regenerative resources will be the focus as we explore repairable, rewearable and renewable products that don’t sacrifice style, comfort or dependability. Trims and hardware will incorporate handcrafted elements, while prints and palettes inspired by organic textures and primitive patterns found in sedimentary rocks add richness.

“Here, the Thesus Weekend Boot is our dream boot come to life. It’s sustainable, durable and most importantly, cute. Made with 95% natural and recycled materials, this vegan hiker is 100% better looking than many other women’s-specific boots on the market. Take note of this proudly BIPOC woman-owned Canadian brand—by establishing complete transparency about their process, policies and certifications, they’re setting a true example for the industry.”

Trend 2. Soft Launch

“Searching for meaning by reconnecting both our sense of self and the world around us, we’re pushing back against the status quo and moving with intention into the next phase of our journey towards health and wellness.

“Epitomizing this trend, WoolAid is an innovative adhesive bandage made from 100% hyper-fine merino wool. Built for zero-waste outdoor adventures, the product heals wounds naturally by biodegrading in approximately four months, but it’s also breathable, durable and antimicrobial.”

Trend 3. Fluid Futures

“Rooted in fluidity, adaptable experimentation is the ultimate value-add as we redefine identity in the metaverse and beyond.

“Black-owned and operated by a pair of cousins, Literally Outside is a genderless lifestyle brand on a mission to empower everyone to feel comfortable exploring the great outdoors. The debut collection features cozy, matching certified organic cotton-knit crewnecks and shorts, while a percentage of proceeds from sales of their Literally Adventurous Heritage Tote Bag goes to Black Outside, an organization reconnecting Black youth to the outdoors.”


Lead Photo: Anna Rodewald/ GreenroomVoice is guiding interested listeners along the 16 partner brands, suppliers and organisation for a deeper dive into the questions and answers around Traceability and Transparency at guided GRV Transparency Tour at the Sustainability Hub/ OutDoor by ISPO 2022.

(Credit: Cira Riedel/GRV)

Gabriel Arthur

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