View from the OIA

As the OIA looks back on 2019 while also planning for 2020, there’s a key theme that stands out to us, one that will inform a lot of future activity. Setting aside the inevitable national focus on politics and Brexit for a moment, the big story of this year for our industry has been the major step-change in sustainability awareness, and in commitments to take affirmative action.

From the ‘Greta Effect’ and the groundswell of activism by young people through campaigns such as Fridays for Future to the maturing of industry-led projects such as The Microfibre Consortium and many initiatives by brands and retailers, sustainability now sits front and centre as an issue of focus for our sector. That will not change.

The OIA approaches sustainability from numerous perspectives. In our role as a trade association, it’s not our place to dictate what individual companies must do, but we do play an active role in collaborative projects in the UK, Europe and farther afield that are addressing some of the aspects of sustainability that are most relevant to our sector.

In doing so, we are able to represent our members (and the UK outdoor industry as a whole) and share opinions and insights that influence the direction of travel of crucial projects. The flip side of this work is that we gain access to the latest news and information on sustainability that we are able to share with OIA members to help them shape their own strategies and action plans. Similarly, we can put this material to very good use when engaging with policymakers in Westminster, adding to our credibility as we lobby on behalf of outdoor businesses throughout the UK.

Meanwhile, more than ever, we are making sustainability a prime focus of our other work. We are building the 2020 OIA Conference and AGM around the topic. The event is shaping up very nicely and we have already confirmed some amazing keynote speakers.

Dr Antje von Dewitz is highly respected within the industry for pioneering sustainability as CEO of VAUDE, one of Europe’s best-known outdoor brands. Antje has a strong personal background and passion for environmental protection and sustainability. She has used this to shape a strategy at VAUDE, which has some of the strongest environmental ethics and working practices in the industry.

A second speaker will be Scott Nelson of the European Outdoor Group, who is leading one of the most important, interesting and practically relevant sustainability initiatives in our industry, the Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Project. Scott will talk about this fascinating industry collaboration of over 35 brands and retailers, who are working together to find ways to significantly reduce SUP use throughout the value chain.

It’s a relatively young project, but by working together, the companies involved have already been able to move from researching the issue to sourcing solutions and then testing concepts. The initiative is a brilliant example of how teaming up to address a specific sustainability challenge can be extremely effective and at a good pace.

Both Antje and Scott epitomise mindsets that are not content with simply talking about what needs to be done – they are establishing solutions and taking action. This is essential because the climate emergency is everyone’s here and now, and while we can all do things to help individually (as people and businesses) at a micro level, the changes that can make big differences globally will only be achieved through sustained collaboration and action, a mantra that drives the OIA and all that we do.

Please join us for the OIA Conference and AGM at Shrigley Hall on 16th and 17th March. You can now book your place at the early bird rate at theoia.co.uk/conference-information.

The OIA Team