The OutDoor Show is recognized for setting new benchmarks for industry products that set themselves apart due to their quality, design, and performance, but it is also an interactive platform for industry leaders to present latest developments and challenges that are pressuring the Outdoor sector.
Leadership & Sustainability would like to bring you some insights from this year’s Sustainability Talks from OutDoor.
Sustainability continues to be integral to the industry. It is indeed the buzzword for OutDoor 2016, listed first in this year’s OutDoor Trendbook. According to Mathias Bönke, Managing Director of Intersport Austria, “Consumers are increasingly concerned with knowing how and where their outdoor products are made. Sustainability and ‘made in Europe’ are now hugely important”.
Many important events took place during the OutDoor 2016, including the global launch of the Responsible Wool Standard. The Responsible Wool Standard is the first 3rd party standard to define what welfare for sheep means. Developed in collaboration between Textile Exchange and many brands from the different textile sectors, this standard covers both animal welfare and land management. It provides a unique, voluntary opportunity for brands to obtain certification stating that the wool used in their products comes from recognized best practice farms that treat their animals ethically.
Sustainability also remains one of the key criteria of the OutDoor Industry Award. Each year, the award keeps industry competitors on their toes to make innovative solutions that will set their products apart and ultimately gain popularity and recognition. High-quality products are evaluated in several categories, including “Sustainable Innovations for products”. In addition to being of the highest quality, the products also need to showcase outstanding sustainability features.
The winners in the Sustainability Innovations category stood out for their innovative prestige, functionality, sustainability, and overall quality. To name one example, this year’s Gold Winner was Guppy Friend – a washing bag that filters 99% of all broken plastic fibres from the waste water in your laundry machine. By filtering the small plastic fibres during the washing process of outdoor garments, Guppy Friend is helping to reduce the micro waste problem. Another great example worth mentioning is the adidas TERREX Parley logo tee produced in partnership with Parley for the Oceans. The tee is made from Parley fabric containing recycled polyester made from ocean plastic waste.
The variety of wonderful innovations we saw at the show this year reaffirm that many efforts and strides have been made towards making more environmentally friendly products. Growing consumer demands and environmental criticism have put pressure on the Outdoor industry to seek solutions for better products. This year, the challenges along the supply chain, chemicals management, and the need for an industry-wide collaboration were among the hot topics on the OutDoor Conference agenda. Experts, scientists, and industry representatives discussed various aspects related to the challenges the industry faces every day and the steps that need to be taken in the near future.
We would like to provide insights and some of the key takeaway points from several of the innovative and future-focused workshops and events that were organized by the Messe Friedrichshafen and the European Outdoor Group.
Our selection focuses on:
- Zero discharge- putting theory into practice
- Developing the business case for your sustainability strategy
- Footwear brand best practices
- Chemical management in the footwear supply chain
- Making environmental claims: Are you bamboozling your customers?
- Sustainability as a positive contributor to overall business
These presentations are summarised below:
Zero Discharge – Putting Theory into Practice
Kurt Schläpfer, Customer Relationship Manager at bluesign technologies ag
Bluesign technologies has had many valuable opportunities to work with brands from the outdoor industry, and as Kurt Schläpfer could confirm, the industry is making great progress in the area of chemicals management. However, there is still a long way to go towards achieving zero discharge.
One important yet challenging aspect is the need for transparency throughout the process of production. Kurt emphasised the importance of integrating the entire supply chain to make a difference. An integrated flow of information is crucial, and every party involved in the process of production should be engaged.
“From the chemical companies, through suppliers to the brand itself, everybody must know what the final purpose of the product is”, noted Kurt. The integrated flow of information will increase transparency in the product supply chain and enhance the level of trust and security in the processes. As Kurt concluded “if you know more, you will test less”.
Develop the Business Case for your Sustainability Strategy
Leadership & Sustainability also took part in the OutDoor 2016 sustainability talks. During this session, we discussed how to put a price – qualitative or quantitative – on your sustainability projects and how to build the entire business case for your sustainability strategy.
The audience had a great opportunity to take part in an interactive task to discuss sustainability goals and projects and the different costs and benefits of them. The discussion showed the different aspects that need to be taken into consideration when developing the business case for sustainability.
Find out more and download the presentation here.
Footwear brand best practice – Panel Discussion
During this panel discussion, representatives from AKU, KEEN, Salomon, Aicad, and Berghaus joined forces and shared their best practices and the top challenges in the footwear supply chain arena. They shared examples from the footwear brands and discussed the different approaches they have taken towards achieving more sustainable supply chains.
During the panel, the topic of Local Production was brought up and some of the advantages and challenges in the leather supply chain were discussed. The brands agreed on many positive aspects of moving production “back home” such as:
- Improved visibility and regulation of factory conditions
- Improved traceability and better control
- Shorter transportation costs and lower carbon emissions
- Producing locally supports the local community
However, production “back home” is not without its challenges, which include:
- High labour costs and lack of workers
- Lead time
- Vendor communication issues
Increased Consumer Demand for Sustainable Products was another topic that the brands agreed is gaining importance and driving the development towards a more sustainable footwear industry. The impact of the younger consumers in the next 10 years is seen as an influential trend. As Chris Enlow from Keen mentioned, “sustainability must be seen as the new baseline”. Although buying more sustainable products is a personal choice for the consumer, the brands feel the pressure to provide a larger range of such products in order to stay competitive on the market.
Chemical Management in the Footwear Supply Chain
Dr. Michael Knauer, Deutsches Schuhinstitut GmbH (DSI)
Dr. Michael Knauer presented on behalf of DSI the CADS group (Cooperation for Avoiding Dangerous Substances in shoes) and their latest project developments. The group’s objective is to contribute to an increased knowledge base and to utilize scientific guides to produce and market shoe materials that don’t contain any dangerous substances.
Dr. Knauer discussed the different working groups within CADS that are focusing their research on important issues such as the presence of dangerous chemical substances like Chromium VI and incorporating standardized testing and outlining requirements to achieve a common Index of Restricted Substances in the footwear Industry.
After the presentation, the audience started an interesting discussion about the need of continuous collaboration between scientific groups, such as CADS, the brands in the leather industry, and the policy makers in order to define realistic norms and regulations.
Making Environmental Claims: Are you bamboozling your customers?
Karin Ekberg presented the different challenges your company might stumble upon when making environmental claims for your products. Making misleading environmental claims may cost your company a fortune, and some have learned this the hard way. Only last year the FTC fined global retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, and JC Penney with US $1.3 million, for publishing misleading environmental claims about some of their products.
This is just one example of many that has triggered an exciting discussion amid the audience members on the challenges of making clear, accurate, and well-defined environmental claims. The brands’ “green” labels were taken as a perfect example of misleading the customers, and tricking them into thinking certain products are environmentally friendly. Different opinions came up on this subject, and as it turns out, it might be possible that some of these labels are “bamboozling” consumers.
Find out more and download the presentation here.
Sustainability as a positive contributor to overall business
Joel Svedlund, Project Manager for Sustainability, Peak Innovation.
Joel Svedlund gave us profound insight on “How can sustainability be a positive contributor to overall business and profitability in an Outdoor/Sport brand?” Joel shared insight from his own experience working on the collaborative project “Sustainable Sports/Outdoor” between five small outdoor brands from Sweden that have developed their sustainability approach together.
Some key take-away points from this project were outlined:
- Companies lack direction towards developing a sustainability agenda and achieving their goals.
- The industry already offers a vast amount of resources and tools, such as the SAC Higg Index, bluesign, and different social and labour certifications that provide a good basis for an initial sustainability assessment.
- Management buy-in remains a challenge for sustainability projects, but in order to secure it, effective communication on a companywide level is key.
- Sustainability baseline assessments can stir unexpected benefits by improving internal communications, securing a sustainability budget and providing company benefits that otherwise may have been overlooked.
One thing that stood out among all of the workshop topics was the need for collaboration and the enormous benefits of collaborative initiatives. We need to work together to affect change, and the journey towards a Sustainable Outdoor industry must be a joint effort. The question that you have to ask yourself is “Am I contributing in this collaboration to achieve a more sustainable future?” If not, it is not too late to start your journey!
Contact us to help you develop your Sustainability Strategy.
Find out more about our Solutions.
The presentation materials from the workshops organised by the EOG can be downloaded here.