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OIA Conference Looks At Sustainability

Published October 16, 2007

VANCOUVER, WA (BRAIN)—Environmental and social responsibility rose to the surface among the topics covered at the Outdoor Industry Association Rendezvous last week. The 12th annual outdoor industry conference attracted approximately 350 attendees.

During a lunchtime keynote address, Kim Jordan, co-founder and chief executive officer of New Belgium Brewing, talked about creating a culture dedicated to energy efficiency. The company uses wind energy and has adopted an onsite water treatment method. In addition, all of its company cars and trucks are hybrid, diesel or biodiesel, and get at least 30 miles per gallon. New Belgium currently is working with a company called Solix to create biodiesel from algae. “We may be a ways off, but we hope to power our own biodiesel vehicles,” Jordan said.

New Belgium also is committed to social responsibility, with programs such as Wonderbike, through which it asks people to commit to ride more in return for a beer and a leg band. More than 10,000 people have signed up and pledged to ride to work three times a week. Jordan said it’s not unusual to see 50 to 60 bikes in the rack in the New Belgium parking lot.

Lorrie Vogel, general manager of Nike Considered, spoke about the two-year-old line, which uses all environmentally preferred materials. Nike created an index that ranks products as bronze, silver or gold based on criteria such as product chemistry, reduction of waste, and use of environmentally preferred materials. The index taps into Nike’s competitive spirit to encourage designers to participate.

Nike’s goal is to be 100 percent bronze in footwear for fiscal year 2011; 100 percent bronze in apparel for 2015; and 100 percent bronze in equipment for 2020. The company also aims to achieve carbon neutrality in its facilities, retail stores and business travel by 2015. “We put public targets out there to help us drive it internally,” Vogel said.

Still, Vogel said it’s important to recognize that consumers still see green as an added bonus, not a substitution for factors such as performance, aesthetics and price.

Marshal Cohen, senior industry analyst for The NPD Group, echoed that view. He said while he sees a ramp up in consumers caring about the environment, they are not yet buying based on green. He said what is working is philanthropy, citing Campbell’s, which sold twice as many cans of soup when it added a pink ribbon label. “They were able to double their business simply by creating a cause,” Cohen said. —Megan Tompkins

Topics associated with this article: Advocacy/Non-profits

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