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Achieving a Culture of Climate Action in the Winter Outdoor Industry

SIA’s ClimateUnited platform delivers guidance and practical solutions
Solar panels with mountainside in background

As stated on its website, “ClimateUnited gives every winter outdoor business the opportunity to execute an ambitious and practical climate strategy, building an industry-wide movement against climate change.”

Chris Steinkamp, head of advocacy, SIA, said that in order to address climate change effectively, the entire ski industry needs to be actively involved. “But when we were working on strategies, we realized that for the most part, the industry really wasn’t engaged meaningfully on climate. We conducted research to find out why not, and learned there were two main issues: First, many of our members are small-and medium-sized businesses that don’t necessarily have the resources or capacity to tackle such a complex issue as climate change. And because of that complexity, they didn’t know where to start.

“Something had to be done to get our industry engaged, so we developed ClimateUnited in order to meet our members where they are, giving them a flexible platform where they can all take part no matter their level of resources or education on the climate issue.”

Uniting the industry

As the first part of a two-step plan, SIA launched the ClimateUnited Pact in 2021, aimed at uniting the winter outdoor industry around a meaningful set of principles. Steinkamp said, “Many companies didn’t understand what they should do, confusing sustainability with climate action even though they are both climate connected. Sustainability is about reducing the carbon footprint, recycling and operating a ‘cleaner’ business. But when you think about climate action, it involves a broader set of tools – cleaning up our footprint, but also trying to change the system in which we are operating, reducing emissions on a much larger scale, on a systemic level.

“So far, we’ve had about 57 companies join and agree to follow the six principles that make up the ClimateUnited Pact. The first is recognizing that the winter outdoor industry has a part in contributing to the climate crisis and that addressing the issue is an imperative business concern. Management priorities make a difference. The entire company should address this in a meaningful way, aligning corporate values and mission, business strategies, consumer marketing and product research and development with climate science. I believe employees want to contribute, but they need the company to create a culture of climate action first.”

“It’s more important that businesses jump in and get started, and we’re here to help them take this very important first step.”

Chris Steinkamp, Snowsports Industries America

Companies that sign the Pact agree to make their best efforts to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030, and by 100 percent by 2050. Steinkamp says this also applies to economy-wide emissions: how energy is produced, how transportation can be cleaner, and working with supply chain partners to reduce emissions from product manufacturing and transportation.

Every ClimateUnited Pact signatory is asked to complete a simple annual report to track progress so the SIA can recognize where more support is needed. Steinkamp said, “We want companies to make their best efforts to meet these principles, but not to sacrifice real progress by waiting to be perfect. It’s more important that businesses jump in and get started, and we’re here to help them take this very important first step.”

Mobilizing the industry

“We knew there were a lot of companies that had joined the Pact and were doing good work on climate, but also a number that needed guidance,” Steinkamp said. “So, in 2022, SIA released the ClimateUnited Lab for businesses that want guidance in their climate action planning.” Free to every SIA member, the Lab supports businesses anywhere along their climate journey, helping them develop a balanced and achievable framework that is focused, prioritizing advocacy and leadership alongside emissions reductions.

This includes the ClimateUnited Academy, a library of MasterClass-style videos with outdoor industry peers who are leading the way on various aspects of climate action. As well, the Lab contains practical tools and resources, technical guidance, a schedule of monthly workshops and much more.

Steinkamp noted that the Lab also provides the 1.5°C Business Playbook, a guide being used by other companies in Europe. “We aligned with a group in Sweden that has given this playbook to companies large and small. It is based on a flexible approach to climate action with guidance on what really matters. The Playbook breaks the journey into four sections: emissions reductions, supply chain reductions, business strategy – ensuring climate change is part of the corporate mission, engaging employees and customers, planning for sustainable products, etc. The fourth part of the playbook is influencing climate action in society, which includes political advocacy, nonprofit engagement, etc.

ClimateUnited -

“The Climate Lab is an online community where our industry collaborates to address challenges, share ideas and learn from colleagues who are tackling the same issues. Collaboration with industry peers is the most powerful tool we have to accelerate our industry’s collective progress.

“This is a powerful online resource with all the tools and resources any company would need to move forward on climate change, allowing for opportunities to engage with each other and trade ideas about best practices. We’re hoping to create an environment of knowledge so we can move forward together that much faster.”

Any business involved in the winter outdoor sports industry can join the Pact for free, but to receive all the benefits of the ClimateUnited Lab, a company must belong to SIA on one of its seven membership levels.

The most important thing, though, is to get started on working together towards a culture of climate action that everyone involved in the outdoor winter sports industry can be proud of now and into the future.