Guest Blog by Beth Jensen from OIA
Trade associations, just like brands and retailers, have historically been fierce competitors. Many of our organizations share many of the same members, and as not-for-profits, we are often scrapping for many of the same membership and sponsorship dollars. Additionally, we are in a constant race of evolution to meet the needs of our members and industries, to remain not only relevant, but indispensible, as a resource to aid in their success – a particularly challenging task given the rapidly changing technological landscape that is quickly rendering the traditional trade association value proposition obsolete.
However, here at Outdoor Industry Association
(OIA), we’ve found that sometimes, collaboration rather than competition can be a win-win situation for two like-minded trade associations. The partnership we have built with Textile Exchange (TE) is a perfect example of this. Together, we’ve taken the concept of pre-competitive collaboration – pioneered by outdoor industry companies who came together in 2007 to form what is now known as the OIA Sustainability Working Group (SWG) to address sustainability challenges in their shared global supply chains – and by applying it at the trade association level, we are able to leverage the strengths of each organization for the shared benefit of both membership rosters.
In mid-2011, leadership within the OIA
SWG began brainstorming the group’s next big project: the Materials Traceability Working Group (MTWG), which would be formed to help address the challenges of traceability within common outdoor industry raw material supply chains such as wool, down, and organic cotton. From a very early stage, it was clear that a partnership between OIA
SWG and TE would be mutually beneficial to the effort, given the strengths of each organization: TE could contribute its unique expertise in standards development, and the OIA
SWG could employ its groundbreaking collaborative working group model toward this new challenge. The partnership was officially forged in January 2012 with the launch of the MTWG at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, and the Organic Content Standard
being released this week is just the latest work product to be churned out of the MTWG.
The benefits of the partnership have proven to be numerous, but two stand out from my perspective: credibility and convergence.
The standards and other tools produced by the MTWG undergo a robust stakeholder engagement process – so even if, for example, TE writes the initial draft of a standard, all group members have the opportunity to provide feedback via regular calls and other touchpoints. The final stage of the process, as with all OIA
SWG work products, is a vote by members of the SWG to officially “ratify” the standard or tool for release to the industry.
And just as important is the convergence being promoted via the OIA
-TE partnership. One of the key principles we hold within the OIA
SWG is a desire to achieve global, industry-wide alignment around a common set of tools; nowhere is this more critical than in the establishment of shared principles and standards for the responsible sourcing of raw materials.
Today, one year into the MTWG, we celebrate the group’s accomplishments to date – such as this week’s release of the Organic Content Standard
- but recognize the many challenges that lay ahead in our shared efforts to establish robust, implementable traceability mechanisms for the outdoor industry. However, we are confident that through the OIA
-TE partnership, we are best-positioned to thoughtfully, authentically face those challenges head-on. As a partnership, and more broadly, as a collective industry, we are so much more powerful than any one trade association or company on its own.
Director of Corporate Responsibility