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The outdoor and sportswear industry has been working on cutting edge developments to improve the sustainability of its brands.

Globally, in order to adapt to future resource shortages, regulations on sustainability and consumer awareness, the outdoor and sportswear industry has been working on cutting edge developments to improve the sustainability of its brands. The outdoor industry is in a prime position to lead the market, due to the traditional focus on product functionality, technical aspects, quality and longevity, as opposed to fast and disposable fashion.

Timberland introduced the “Green Index” back in 2007 a measure of the environmental impact of their products, with the goal of providing consumers with clear information regarding the environmental footprint created by their business. Nike has developed an apparel index – a tool to help guide product development teams to make better environmental choices for all their products. The outdoor industry trade associations, the European Outdoor Group (EOG) and the Outdoor Industry

Association (OIA) in USA, have recently been working on developing an apparel industry standard index, the Eco-index, that can be applied to all outdoor wear and gear, and eventually to other textiles products and sports equipment.

Life cycle approach to sustainability

The Eco-index tool, currently in phase 1 of development, and due to be completed in its initial stage by the end of 2010, allows companies to start to assess the environmental stainability of their products throughout the whole product life cycle. The tool at this point is internal-facing, meant to drive improvements through the supply chain, as opposed to being a consumer-facing ecolabel.

The starting point is a set of guiding principles covering the ecodesign of products and packaging, and the implementation of improvements in facilities. Qualitative indicators are then provided, giving an overall score per product for each life cycle step, against a range of environmental indicators such as: incorporation of recycled or certified materials, reduction in components, restriction of chemical substances, and ensured recyclability at end of life.

Eventually, when the Index is complete, each major environmental impact identified, e.g. water, GHG emissions, toxicity and others, will have a specific associated quantitative metric, coupled with an outline methodology on how to determine the measure. For Phase One, only Water, Waste, Energy and GHG are in scope for full metrics foot printing.

Although a complete set of foot printing tools is not provided, the index provides standards recommendations as well as links to associated tools and resources.

What can you do? The initiative is currently running a pilot program which encourages businesses to test the tool using simple metrics, including practicing the application of the Index using a generic Bill Of Materials (BOM) and applying the index in more detail to a company’s products. The tool will provide a good introduction to companies starting out on the ecodesign process, as it offers a set of high level environmental guidelines as well as techniques for simple qualitative product analysis. The index is intended to have a global reach, with the aim of ensuring a common worldwide approach along with application of the index to other industries and sectors.

Support with the Eco-index

The index will also include a tool on Standards and Regulations, allowing users to filter through the maze of existing standards and use the most appropriate ones. The SGS sustainability team has been involved in the working groups for the Eco-index, specifically for the tool on Standards and Regulations.

SGS is also working with the Outdoor Group assisting with training and on aspects of validation of the different points of the index. When it comes to quantitative metrics for environmental factors, such as GHG emissions, SGS can also assist through its expertise in carbon foot printing, through either training, assessment or verification.

Learn more about the Eco-index or contact SGS for help with ecodesign projects. Contact:

Bethany Murray
Sustainability Consultant

SGS United Kingdom Ltd
Saunders House, 52-53 The Mall,
Ealing, London, W5 3TA
t: +44 (0)203 008 7866
f: +44 (0)203 008 7870
Website: www.sgs.com/sustainableproducts

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With 59,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.