Tuesday, 19 June 2007

COMMENT: Green fever doesn't spread to outdoor industry

Shares in companies fighting climate change are soaring. The UK’s ethical finance market is now worth £12 billion according to a recent survey by the Co-op Bank. According to Sir David Attenborough, there is a “moral change” in the public’s attitude to global warming. This view is supported by research showing that three out of four British families would boycott firms that do not take real steps to cut their environmental impact. However, more than half were sceptical about firms' commitment, believing they made only superficial changes to win public favour.
Some of the biggest new green evangelists can be found in the retail sector, with supermarkets. Wal-Mart, the owner of Asda, has committed itself to using 100% renewable energy, reducing waste and selling more sustainable products. Marks and Spencer has introduced ‘Bags for Life’ to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags, a move that comes as part of M&S's drive, called "Plan A", towards ethical trading and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. The five-year scheme will see M&S become carbon neutral, stop sending waste to landfill and extending its sustainable sourcing by 2012.
The outdoor industry already plays a significant role in fighting climate change by connecting people with the outdoors and championing its benefits in terms of personal development, fitness and well being. Getting out and being a part of nature undoubtedly encourages understanding and protection of the natural environment and ultimately of the planet.
Perhaps it is no surprise to see that Patagonia still leads the field on environmental philosophies and they continue to raise the bar for those brands that have jumped onto the ethical bandwagon. A look through Patagonia catalogue is like reading a green guide to life.
Recycling is a major method of reducing human impact and Patagonia has installed recycle bins in many of their stores. Polartec have been making recycled fleece since 1993 and are launching a new recycled base layer in the Autumn. Osprey are now making a rucksack that is made from 70% recycled materials. Merino wool is now a common alternative to petro chemically produced materials in base layers and socks and used by many companies. Going carbon-neutral is a common direction for the eco-conscious brand and Craghoppers have followed this route to gaining their green credentials.
Inov-8 are fresh new brand and they are also tackling their ecological footprint and implementing a wide range of practical steps from reducing their travel to changing their method of transport when importing products from China.
To reduce travel and in particular importing from China, a manufacturing base in the country of sales is an excellent course to take. Altberg continue to make boots in the UK as well as investigating the use of wind turbines to run their factory.
These examples give an impression that the outdoor industry is well ahead of the game, but in reality I had to scratch and scrape to find anything new to report apart from Patagonia’ dominance.
Nick Brown of Nikwax presented 'Climate Change in the Mountains - its significance for your business' at the 2006 Outdoor show in Friedrichshafen. It appeared to generate much thought and talk. One year on has anything changed? Not a lot from what I can tell!

For more information on how climate change could effect your enjoyment of the hills, check out the July issue of Trail, which went on sale at the start of June.

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Written by Graham Thompson