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Greening Gear: Q & A with Eco-Friendly Outdoor Gear Leaders

Imagine eco-friendly equipment that offers superior performance to today's gear. The future is bright, but how do we get there? A BACKPACKER roundtable discussion.

4. Are your customers demanding greener gear and what are they willing to sacrifice (or trade off) for it? Are there good margins in green gear, or is it more expensive to produce than regular equipment? What’s creating the trend towards greener gear, consumer demand or a sense of corporate environmental responsibility?

Kevin: Yes, customers are asking for products which have a lower environmental footprint however they are not willing to sacrifice much—if anything—to get them. The challenge is when things cost more because they are truly better (not just greener), how to not let the idea that green costs more enter the discussion.

We do believe what is creating trends towards more environmental responsibility in products is actually multi-dimensional. Besides being the “right thing to do”, brands may view one or more of these as drivers for their behavior towards environmentally considerate products:
• Resource scarcity – The prices of materials/resources continues to skyrocket and being environmentally responsible is one of the best ways to responsibly manage cost
• Consumer demands – Consumers are definitely asking for this, as they should… doing it enhances brand reputation, not doing it will soon become a liability
• Governmental regulations – Whether full carbon footprinting/eco labeling, toxics management/compliance, or extended producer responsibility (take back programs), government is increasingly willing to legislate what they believe to be good behavior.
• A wonderful platform for innovation – sustainability is creating new opportunities for creating better (not just ‘greener’) products.

Dawson: Customers and consumers alike are starting to ask questions about how products are made and where they come from. Transparency of the supply chain is an increasingly important aspect of manufacturing. Pleading the 5th and not knowing the impact of each and every step of the value chain is no longer valid and transparency of product and production will continue to grow in importance.

Corporate environmental responsibility is also an important aspect of this as it’s the corporations that make the products, so it’s the corporations and companies that work on the innovation to bring ‘greener’ alternatives to market and provide choices for customers. Corporations that are making ‘greener’ alternatives need to experience the pull and success of these products, which in turn gets reinvested into the next generation of products.

Eric Lombardi, president of the Grassroots Recycling Network once said ‘let’s not kill the good in pursuit of the perfect.’ ‘Green’ is a continuum with many factors, and will continue to evolve. Both consumers and corporations play a role in this evolution.

Jill: Consumers are asking better, deeper questions about product so they are certainly paying attention but I think it is still a minority that are ‘demanding’ greener products.

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