European Outdoor Group summer meeting showcases a professional and maturing industry

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The European Outdoor Group (EOG) this week held its annual summer meeting, ahead of OutDoor in Friedrichshafen. One of two major EOG meetings that takes place each year, the event saw around 80 senior figures from leading outdoor brands from across Europe gather to discuss some of the key issues affecting the industry.

Scheduled for the day before the start of OutDoor, the EOG summer meeting was an opportunity to reflect how much the outdoor sector has changed in the 20 years since the show made its debut. During the meeting, EOG president David Udberg and secretary general Mark Held reported on recent developments in the association relating to a range of subjects. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) provided another of the meeting’s main themes, particularly the subject of sustainability, and professionalism was a common thread that ran throughout.

Mark Held, secretary general of the EOG, explains: “Innovation and invention built the foundation of our industry’s success, creating demand for our products and offering consumers an outdoor lifestyle choice. That in turn was a catalyst for further growth and our sector has now reached a globally significant size, meaning that we are now firmly on the big business radar. Professionalism will be key to sustaining growth and dealing with the many challenges that come hand in hand with being a world industry.”

Sustainability issues were discussed at some length during the summer meeting, and the association used the occasion as an opportunity to provide an extensive update of work being done relating to chemicals. The EOG has been active for some time in exploring the viable options for reducing the use of environmentally harmful chemicals in the manufacture of outdoor products. The solutions will come from chemists, not brands, but the EOG is providing support and evidence based guidance to the outdoor industry on a complex and difficult subject. The association has been working with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Group (ZDHC) for some time on the issue of PFC use and now plans extend that cooperation. In addition, the EOG has now become an associate member of the ZDHC.

As a further sign of its commitment to establishing a clear way forward on the topic of the use of chemicals, it was announced in the meeting that the EOG has made the decision to employ an expert who can bridge the gap between the outdoor industry and the scientific community. It is clear that alternatives to substances such as PFC can only come from the chemical industry. However, the EOG hopes that by hiring a sustainability manager with a chemical/textile background, it can actively support the process of making significant changes in the supply chain, working closely with individual brand experts, the ZDHC and the chemicals industry.

For several years, the EOG has followed a policy of trying to engage with pressure groups/NGOs about CSR issues. While that approach has not always been reciprocated by the NGOs themselves, good progress has been made recently and that was reported during the summer meeting. In particular, the EOG has developed a constructive relationship with the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF). Secretary general Mark Held has joined the board of FWF and Ivo Spauwen, the NGO’s verification coordinator, gave a presentation to the meeting about the living wage. In addition, it was reported during the meeting that the EOG has provided financial support for an FWF study on the living wage in the outdoor industry, the results of which will be ready for members in the autumn, with a summary available for the wider public.

Other highlights of the summer meeting included a presentation from John Jansen about the latest developments at the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA), a preview of October’s inaugural European Outdoor Summit in Stockholm by Martin Kössler of the Scandinavian Outdoor Group, and a presentation about branding by BMW’s head of communications strategy, Michael Lerch.

David Udberg, president of the EOG, comments: “It was very pleasing to see such a large turnout for the EOG summer meeting. The event was a great showcase of how cooperation on non-competitive issues can be really healthy and effective for our maturing industry. The meeting was an excellent opportunity for new members to learn more about how the association works and hear some of the recent progress that has been made in some very important areas. And of course, this was also a great chance for senior industry figures to network with their peers ahead of OutDoor. We are grateful to Messe Friedrichshafen for hosting our summer meeting and for once again organising this excellent trade show.”

The European Outdoor Group now has 60 full members, and also enjoys a close cooperation with nine national associations. Several new members have recently joined the organisation and were represented at the summer meeting, including Eider, Millet, Sea to Summit, Hanwag, Outdoor Research, Pacsafe, Thule and the Dutch Sporting Goods Federation.

For additional media information please contact Chris Lines on +44 (0)7971 868329, chris@rightlines.info or www.twitter.com/chrisjlines.