Outdoor companies, regardless of size, are implementing sustainability practices realising their role in environmental and community stewardship, according to the first-ever State of Sustainability in the Outdoor Industry report which found that 75 per cent of participating companies had at least one employee who was responsible for sustainability efforts. The report found that 87 per cent of companies used the Higg Index to guide internal sustainability conversations or benchmarking efforts. Products and materials emerged as a priority for all sizes of companies, with 69 per cent of respondents prioritising their efforts accordingly.

The report has been brought out by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) after surveying 120 individual small, midsize and large companies in the outdoor industry to quantify the outdoor industry’s long-time collaborative efforts to reduce the impacts of its products and processes. The report establishes a baseline to measure the industry’s sustainability performance and provides guidance to prioritise future initiatives, while highlighting some of the best examples of proactive approaches to sustainability that companies are taking to improve their businesses and positively impact their bottom lines.

“The outdoor industry has done a fantastic job flexing the muscles of the $887 bn outdoor recreation economy to protect our public lands; now it’s time to showcase how we have led on another core effort that directly connects to environmental conservation: Product and supply chain responsibility. This first-ever comprehensive industry report begins to do just that, and our goal is to use this – and future reports – to measure progress, identify areas for improvement and illustrate the importance of sustainable practices as a business imperative,” said Beth Jensen, Senior Director of sustainable business innovation at OIA.

For over ten years, the members of OIA’s Sustainability Working Group (SWG) have been collectively tackling supply chain issues important to the industry, including chemicals management, animal welfare, social responsibility and fair labour practices in factories, microfibre shedding in oceans and waterways and carbon reduction strategies. Companies are also investing in efforts to cut carbon emissions with 63 per cent of the companies surveyed investing in renewable energy, the report said.

The report indicates that companies of all sizes prioritise materials and design as well as product use and end-of-life strategies. Depending on the size of the company, other priorities shift. For small companies, packaging was prioritised, likely because this is a highly visible area in which relatively quick wins and cost savings can be seen. Midsize companies identified manufacturing as a key priority, which indicates that they are recognising the increased impacts of their manufacturing practices. And for large companies, chemicals management – a more complex, advanced area often managed by dedicated staff members – was highly ranked.

The report also found that small companies are leading in their use of third-party certifications to amplify their efforts and supplement their existing resource base, midsize companies are being pulled in many directions, facing the same expectations of larger companies but with fewer resources, and large companies indicate that having a proactive sustainability strategy is critical for business success.

“This report provides a wonderful opportunity to recognise the outdoor industry’s progress toward a standard practice of responsible, sustainable business,” said Danielle Cresswell, Senior Sustainability Manager for Klean Kanteen. “That said, it is imperative that we continue building on the 10-plus years of advances led by the Sustainability Working Group to broaden our industry’s participation and deepen our innovation for lasting solutions.”

The State of Sustainability in the Outdoor Industry report will be shared with the industry and others at upcoming meetings and conferences and will be updated every two years. Subsequent reports will provide the ability to identify areas of improvement, as well as gaps, using this initial study as the benchmark.