View from the OIA

A few days ago, we hosted our ‘Get Your Business Ready For Brexit’ event in London. To adapt a well-worn phrase, 48 hours is a long time in politics! Ostensibly, our event was pitched to help outdoor businesses prepare for departure from the EU after 31st October. While that is now not going to happen (or at least that seems pretty clear at the time of writing this), Tuesday’s forum was nevertheless very informative and useful. Our expert speakers are now very accustomed to presenting in a context of ifs and buts and maybes, and were able to deliver expert advice and insights that will be invaluable to those who attended, however, the Brexit situation concludes, and whenever that happens.

Whatever the eventual outcome, the UK outdoor industry is well placed as a sector to weather the challenges ahead. Ours is the second-largest outdoor economy in Europe and none of our customers or suppliers have any intention of leaving us. Arne Strate, the European Outdoor Group’s general secretary, spoke at our Brexit event and his message was clear: “You are leaving the EU, not Europe – let’s trade on.” And we will.

In that context, the EOG will continue to support the OIA and UK industries at trade shows, with research, with sustainability initiatives, and in other ways. The UK remains a very important part of the wider European outdoor sector and there is plenty of goodwill on both sides that will help us all in the future, regardless of what happens.

All of this was clearly evident at the European Outdoor Summit in Interlaken last month. The event brought together senior industry executives from around the world to listen to keynote speakers, take part in interactive workshops, network and socialise, and generally explore key topics that affect us all. There was a spirit of togetherness during the event that confounded all borders, never more so than during discussions about sustainability, a theme that was on everyone’s lips and which was also central to the event, with every keynote touching on the subject in some way.

Many EOG members have closed stores or demonstrated alongside the recent climate change protests, while many more have started to take significant steps toward running even more sustainable businesses. Inspired by this, we spoke to the EOG’s sustainability team and are working on a plan. As an association, we have signed the EOG Sustainability Charter, and we now want to help smaller companies progress along their own paths towards genuinely more sustainable practices.

But how can you be sure that you are doing the right thing, and not get trapped in ‘greenwashing’? The OIA will try and help with this – working closely with the EOG and the BMC, we will produce a simple route map for your sustainability journey. Well researched, authentic and following the footsteps of key sustainability leaders, we will offer a guide to how to start or continue your own journey. We intend to have our guide ready in time for our AGM and conference in March 2020, when one of our speakers will be the owner of VAUDE, a leader in sustainability in our sector.

Please join us as we work towards a more sustainable industry and society. Tell us what we can do to help you and your business, come to the conference, and help us to help the UK lead the way in sustainability, as part of a growing and dynamic European and global movement.

Andrew Denton, CEO, Outdoor Industries Association.