Andy-Shimeck-Rab

OTS Sustainability breakfast sponsored by Rab & Lowe Alpine: Review

At this years’ OTS Trade show, a sustainability breakfast hosted by Andrew Denton, from the Outdoor Industries Association (OIA), continued to highlight the industry’s efforts to reduce our impact and become increasingly sustainable.

This is not the first of these events and as they continue to build momentum it helps spread the message by sharing stories and programs from across different businesses.

Andrew Denton, CEO of the OIA, introduced the morning session and the speakers. Denton highlighted the OIA’s Net Zero goals, Responsibility – The Outdoor Industries Association (theoia.co.uk)

The first speaker was Andy Schimeck, Rab Global sales director, who brought a positive energy to the stage and challenged more people to make small changes. While many changes may seem small, the multiplier effect of mass participation can make a noticeable difference.

Information about some of the changes Rab & Lowe Alpine have made on the OIA website

The second speaker was Jose Finch, Managing Director of Outdoor & Cycle Concepts (Cotwsold Outdoor, Snow & Rock & Runners Need). Jose was joined virtually by Melanie Gruenwald, their Head of sustainability officer.

After O&CC went through a necessary CVA in 2019, the topic of sustainability started to grow within the business. While some projects were being processed, Jose admitted the journey to move from localised advice projects into a formal program across the business was something that needed to happen at a quicker rate.

Despite running local programs for many years, O&CC officially started their journey towards a move from ad hoc projects, pushed by individuals within the company, to a company wide focus on being more sustainable in all areas in 2019.

In 2020, O&CC started local projects and provided more structure with CEO support. In 2021, the position of Head of sustainability was added to the management team and group-wide programs commenced.

By 2022 more formal group-wide projects were started and O&CC became part of BAU. It’s also key to note that self starter projects from staff internally are increasing each year too. Melanie highlighted the need to find a balance to ensure projects were optimum for the planet and business. She explained that going too far could lead to be it not being business sustainable, yet green washing was more ‘propaganda’ than action.

O&CC’s 5 year plan:

1. Sustainable products

2. Carbon Neutrality

3. Minimal waste

4. Protecting our outdoors

Jose and Melanie also highlighted their new ‘Mission & Values’ which is summarised pretty well in their statement of “Changing the fabric of outdoor retailing, being Brave, Bold, Real & transparent, Relentless & rigorous“.

What they’ve learned so far – Communication is key / No hiding / Action beats inaction / Make everyone part of the solutions.

What O&CC has achieved so far includes:

  • 27% of their range qualified for ‘our planet’ label
  • Repair & Care – 10k repairs and 5k washed to bring gear back to life
  • Recycle my gear – 158 collection points at over 18,000 kg of clothing so far collected
  • Outdoor retailer climate agreement makes O&CC committed to achieve target reductions by 2030
  • 300 plus paid staff hours cleaning and repairing natural spaces
  • Raised funds to reforest local areas

For more information on their sustainability programs visit Sustainability | Cotswold Outdoor.

The final speaker was the very inspirational Richard Pine from Paramo directional clothing.

Richard explained the background of the Paramo brand and how corporate enterprise can impact social enterprise in a very positive way when done correctly.

Paramo make jackets rather differently. They don’t use membranes, their jackets are highly repairable and the environmental impact is very small per jacket versus many other big brands.

The Paramo factory became a World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) and is run by the Miquelina foundation, which makes 80 per cent of Paramo’s products. Subsequently the sales of Paramo has a direct impact on the amount the foundation can achieve. More information on this amazing partnership can be found at Páramo Clothing | Ethical Manufacturing (paramo-clothing.com)

Some of Richard’s key points were:

  • People – Ethical and fair treatment of all people in the supply chain
  • Paramo people / partnerships for the Planet
  • Circularity and recycling of existing gear
  • Detox outdoor (no chemicals in production)
  • Paramo recycling scheme and Paramo re-store adventure (which sells some recycled jackets)
Paramo circular supply chain
Paramo’s circular supply chain model.

All of Paramo’s Initial designs were focussed on ensuring jackets could be repaired and this continues to today, it’s been a core part of their business model.

Paramo, Nikwax and Miquelina became employee owned in early 2022 to ensure the continuation of the brands’ values after the founder, Nick Brown, retired.

Richard Pine from Paramo
Richard Pine “Social sustainability can be equally or more important than product”

The sustainability presentation will be on the OIA website soon, you can sign up for newsletters to view older ones at Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) – Together We Are Stronger! (theoia.co.uk)

Article by JC – Please leave any comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.