So it makes sense—and it’s certainly about time—for the companies that sell outdoor apparel and equipment to come up with common standards to measure the environmental impact of their products.
This week, an industry group called the Outdoor Industry Alliance announced that its members have spent several years doing just that. The companies unveiled “a ground breaking environmental assessment tool” that they call an Eco Index, saying:
It provides companies throughout the supply chain a way to benchmark and measure their environmental footprint, allowing them to identify areas for improvement and make informed sourcing and product life cycle decisions.
It sounds good, doesn’t it? The trouble is, the group says it will take a long time for the industry to develop and agree on standards that are simple, reliable and meaningful enough to present them to consumers. In fact, there’s no commitment to turn the index into a shopper-friendly tool, the industry says:
The current focus of the index is to be an internal/supply chain facing tool and not a consumer-facing label. This focus could be revisited in future years.
That’s disappointing. It’s particularly disappointing because one company—Timberland—has demonstrated that it’s possible to measure and report on the impact of its products. As it happens, Timberland today (Aug. 3) convened a conference call to talk about its own Green Index and how it fits into the new industry-wide initiative.
Jeff Swartz, the CEO of Timberland and a leader of the corporate-responsibility movement, said he wants to play nicely with competitors and other retailers, as the industry tries to settle on common metrics. “We can’t afford a Betamax-VHS debate,” he said. “Harmonization is an imperative.”
At the same time, Swartz made clear that he’s frustrated by the slow pace of the industry initiative.