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When Gina McCarthy, the Biden Administration’s chief climate adviser, spoke to the Outdoor Industry Association on Monday, her keynote touched on policy matters but also served as a pep talk for tackling climate change.
And she didn’t mince words when describing how President Joe Biden, who’s only six months into his presidency, is vastly different from his predecessor when it comes to matters of climate and the environment.
“We’re turning back the decisions of the prior administration that sought to undermine our efforts to protect the environment, conserve our natural resources, and tackle climate,” she told the audience of OIA members and other outdoor industry stakeholders. “This administration is committed to making sure that we wear our values on our sleeves, just like you do, and we’re making terrific progress.”
McCarthy, who served as head of the EPA under President Barack Obama, outlined Biden’s priorities, which include reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 2030, reaching net-zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050, and passing along the “benefits of our climate and clean energy investments to the communities that have been left behind,” she said, “because, as you and I know, there’s been systemic disinvestment in communities, and that needs to stop.”
Her main point on the webinar: The outdoor industry should play a key role in pushing and promoting some of these endeavors through ongoing collaborative models of climate action. One example is OIA’s Climate Action Corps, which encourages companies that join “to commit to measure, plan, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and share their progress annually.”
Said McCarthy: “It’s quite amazing and I’m excited that you’re providing such leadership, along with all of the business members in your community. You’re showing every business community now what it means to be a climate champion because it’s not just the right thing to do, but you’re showing them that it’s enormously beneficial for everyone’s bottom line—not just businesses, but our families, individuals. This is not a planetary problem; it is a people problem.”
And on Tuesday, the outdoor industry delivered some of the solutions that McCarthy and others are expecting. Climate Action Corps unveiled its first Annual Impact Report to mark year one progress and announced an unprecedented goal to become the world’s first climate-positive industry by 2030.
“There’s no denying that climate change is an existential crisis for the outdoor industry,” said Amy Horton, OIA senior director of sustainable business innovation. “The question is no longer ‘what will we do about it?’—it’s how far can we go, and who wants to join us? We want the outdoor industry to lead the charge and inspire other industries. Our efforts alone will certainly not solve the climate crisis—we need every business, government, and individual to act. With this new strategy, we’ve established a credible, practical pathway, supporting resources, and interim milestones that will guide and accelerate progress for companies no matter how far along they are on the path.”
The next milestone for the Biden administration’s climate path, McCarthy noted during her webinar keynote, was the passing of a bipartisan American Jobs Plan, which will spark clean energy investments in the private sector and propel the White House’s aspirational yet attainable goals.
“I have no doubt we will get there,” McCarthy said. “The ultimate question is will we get there soon enough?”
Climate Leadership Awards
On Monday’s webinar, the winners of the Path to Positive (P2P) Climate Leadership Awards were also unveiled. Here they are:
Klean Kanteen won the Transparency Award, which “recognizes the member organization that has creatively and authentically pushed the boundaries of honest storytelling about their climate journey to inspire action by consumers, employees, peers, and other key stakeholders.” The insulated bottle brand was honored for identifying what was and what wasn’t working with its sustainability efforts, and because it uses third-party verifications and certifications rather than just its own messaging.
NEMO Equipment and DAC won the Partnership Award, which “recognizes the member organization with a shining example of an enduring value chain partnership—particularly supplier to brand—that is innovative and replicable.” The brands were honored for their 100,000 polybag elimination project, which Outside Business Journal recently covered with an in-depth report on the ambitious program.
Troy Jones of Specialized won the Community Award, which “doesn’t recognize a retailer, brand, or supplier but instead recognizes the individual person who has frequently engaged and contributed to the climate action core community to bolster collective knowledge to its fullest potential.” Among Jones’ contributions include his sustainability work with People for Bikes and OIA, and how he thinks about relationships as a lever for change.
Burton Snowboards won the Impact Award, which “recognizes the member organization that has taken notable actions to drive big impact, particularly greenhouse gas emissions reduction in line with the Climate Action Corps guiding principle.” The snowboard giant was honored for thinking about its impact beyond its value chain and thinking about its footprint in a broader way than other businesses.