OIA names sustainability expert Amy Roberts as new executive director; reduces board size by a third

Roberts helped lead OIA's sustainability efforts from 2005 to 2011 and most recently served as Mountain Equipment Co-op director of sustainability.

The Outdoor Industry Association is welcoming back one of its own as its new executive director as it restructures its leadership with a smaller number of board of directors.

Amy Roberts, who helped lead OIA’s sustainability efforts from 2005 to 2011 and most recently served as Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)’s director of sustainability in Canada, will begin leading OIA in late July, officials announced early Wednesday.

Photo: Courtesy
Photo: Courtesy

Roberts, who also serves on the board of the Conservation Alliance and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, replaces Frank Hugelmeyer, who resigned from the position last October, after 14 years on the job. In-between Hugelmeyer and Roberts, OIA turned to former Eagle Creek exec Steve Barker to lead the organization on an interim basis.

Robert’s election as new the executive director won full support from the board, officials said. More than 100 candidates were considered from the start of the search in January.

“Amy’s specialty retail and manufacturing background at MEC; deep knowledge of outdoor industry government affairs and corporate responsibility issues; and her overall authentic, collaborative approach to business make her the ideal person for this role,” said Jen Mull, OIA board chair and Backwoods CEO. “We are so excited about the good work that OIA will continue to accomplish on behalf of the outdoor industry with Amy leading the team.”

Bringing the industry together on priority issues will be a tall task for Roberts. As the industry has successfully grown, it’s gotten wildly diverse in the what it defines as the outdoors (to the chagrin of some who complain the core is being diluted), but still trailing in its gender and race makeup. The industry, OIA in particular, also has attempted to increase influence in WashingtonD.C., an area Roberts has experience with her previous OIA government affairs work. That too, carries its own debates, such as OIA’s recent support of the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership versus brands such as Patagonia’s opposition to it.

“OIA’s role as a trade association is to be a place of collaboration, where we bring together all the industry voices to amplify our impact beyond each individual company’s independent voice,” Roberts said. “I look forward to working with all our members to collectively achieve success and help the industry to grow.” Specifically addressing specialty retailers, Roberts acknowledged challenges for the group, but also opportunities. “We’re not just selling another commodity product,” Roberts told SNEWS in an interview Wednesday. “The outdoors is also about experiences, and that includes the experience in purchasing products and getting advice. They’re looking for a relationship with the retailers and brands they’re doing business with.”

As OIA transitions to new executive director leadership, the association will also adjust its board structure, reducing its size from 25 members to 15-18, officials said.

“We need board members who are adept at outdoor industry issues and who can commit to rolling up their sleeves and serving the greater good for our members,” Mull said. “A smaller, engaged board is critical to supporting the leadership and staff at OIA in their efforts to accomplish the work of the association.”

Officials said the board reduction will come through a mixture of term limits, members stepping down and new additions after elections, the results of which will be announced in early August at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. Toad&Co. CEO and current OIA Vice Chair Gordon Seabury is slated to lead the group, already having been named incoming chair.

–David Clucas