SIA rallies with national associations, companies to fight climate change
Winter sports industry leaders have watched with uneasiness as winters have become less predictable.
“We have seen the lack of snow, the increased amounts of snow, the dry winters, the cold winters, the warm winters — we have all seen this over the last 10 years,” said Nick Sargent, president of Park City-based trade organization Snowsports Industries America. In an industry that depends on snow, changing climate patterns are causing big concerns.
For that reason, Snowsports Industries America, the National Ski Area Association and the Outdoor Industry Association are banding together in a new initiative titled the Outdoor Business Climate Partnership. The three national organizations hope to incite change among business leaders and politicians to slow climate change and its effects. United by Winter, SIA’s climate platform that is in line with the partnership’s goals, is set to launch at the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show, a trade show for the outdoor industry set to take place in Denver starting on Jan. 30.
Sargent said the three associations have been talking over the last few years about joining arms to take on issues affecting outdoor recreation. Climate change, which Sargent said is “the single largest threat to the outdoor recreation industry,” seemed like the best issue for the alliance to address first.
Research that has come out in the last few years has shown that climate change could drastically shorten the winter season, and some effects have already been seen in consistently poor snow levels and the first snow falling later in the season. In towns that thrive economically off winter sport recreation, such as Park City, the impact of a shorter winter season would be massive, Sargent said.
“This goes beyond OIA, SIA and NSAA. This goes all the way to the kitchen table of every family that is living in this community,” he said.
Last fall, the leaders of the associations started meeting to decide how best to engage its members and bring about change.
Sargent said ultimately, the organizations would like to see legislation that would reduce carbon emissions and incentivize the use of clean and renewable power and companies take action to reduce their own carbon impact.
But to get the support of the retailers, brands, suppliers and ski resorts the associations represent, the initial hurdle is educating members about the risk of climate change on the outdoor industry. The first step for businesses to get involved in United by Winter is to commit and agree that “climate change is impacting the snow sports industry and the future of our sports” and “leveraging our corporate scale is a critical component to the solution now,” according to SIA’s website.
Resources on SIA’s website provide facts on climate change and information about what companies and political groups are doing to combat it.
Sargent said one of the reasons United by Winter came about was because he and other industry leaders realized many outdoor retailers and brands want to make changes to reduce their carbon footprint or get involved in lobbying for legislative changes, but the majority of the businesses do not know how to best break into the space. What ends up happening, he said, is that companies hope other businesses will make the changes.
Advocacy groups like Protect Our Winters already lobby for legislative changes and educate businesses and the public about the effects of climate change on winter sports, Sargent said. United by Winter aims to connect businesses to groups already making noise.
“We are doing this together,” Sargent said. “We are going to engage our members on policy collectively. We are going to visit Capitol Hill together. We are going to work to influence elected officials at the state and federal level.”
He and board members of the associations plan to visit Washington, D.C., in late February to lobby for new legislation to reduce carbon emissions. The Outdoor Business Climate Partnership plans to bring more members to Washington, D.C., in the spring and the fall.
“(We) want to leverage the outdoor industry’s economic, political and social influential by working together in partnership,” he said.
SIA also plans to research the effectiveness of different measures to reduce carbon emissions, so businesses know which changes will have the largest overall impact. United by Winter will then provide tools and programs to companies to reduce carbon emissions.
Sargent hopes the Outdoor Business Climate Partnership and SIA’s United by Winter will get brands, retailers and resorts to talk together about what they are doing as companies to reduce emissions. He knows pushing businesses to change is going to be hard, but he believes if leaders are working collectively and can see the impact of their changes, companies will be encouraged to join the effort.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated accurately identify the partnership among Snowsports Industries America, the National Ski Area Association and the Outdoor Industry Association. It is the Outdoor Business Climate Partnership.
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