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EU Winter Sports Brands Come Together to Support Circularity

Amid the threat of climate change, members of the winter sports gear industry are joining forces to promote a more sustainable future for their sector.

The Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI) this week announced the formation of the FESI Winter Sport Sustainability Network (FESI-WSN), bringing together outdoor and sports equipment brands like Atomic, Elan, Fischer, MDV, Tyrolia, Head, K2 and Peak 63. The knowledge-sharing initiative aims to promote cooperation among members in advancing circularity and environmental stewardship.

According to FESI, the network will facilitate four annual roundtable discussions with members and industry experts, wherein attendees will identify and collaborate on high-priority projects and areas of focus. Those priorities will range from circularity to end-of-life solutions for used goods and implementing environmental footprinting tools.

General secretary for FESI Jérôme Pero noted that the winter sports industry as a whole is being threatened by climate change. “To remain competitive and make a positive contribution to the warming threat, the industry must respond in a unified and coordinated way,” he said, “whether it be to reduce its carbon footprint or to meet the growing environmental consumers’ expectations.”

FESI-WSN will allow the industry’s foremost players to contribute, in a coordinated and efficient manner, to a more sustainable winter sports industry, he added.

“Sustainability isn’t about competing,” echoed René Harrer, sales and marketing director at Head Ski and head of the FESI Winter Sports Task Force. “It’s about working and innovating together to faster find new solutions to our common challenges.”

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The cooperation between prominent brands and experts will help the industry become “more responsible and resilient,” ensuring that it can “meet the challenges of tomorrow,” he said.

In addition to facing shorter snowy seasons in recent years, the sector has also had to contend with the economic impacts of the pandemic.

While consumers have demonstrated an outsized interest in exploring the outdoors over the past two years, mandatory closures of winter tourism areas like ski resorts during the 2020-2021 winter season drove down sales for specialty stores, the group said, with 89 percent of ski-related companies experiencing losses of up to 50 percent. The group lobbied German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron to reverse the Europe-wide shutdown of ski resorts in late 2020.

Downward trends persisted this winter season, the group added. “There are significantly lower orders placed to the industry—primarily supplied by EU manufacturers,” FESI stated. Supply chain shortages have also limited the sector’s recovery. “The resulting negative domino effect could have massive consequences for the world market leaders in the European ski industry,” it added, “and thus mean the destruction of domestic added value and jobs.”

Founded in 1960, FESI represents about 1,800, or 85 percent, of the European sporting goods industry’s brands and manufacturers through its federation and directly affiliated member companies. About three-quarters of its membership is comprised of small and medium sized businesses, the group said, and the industry on the whole employs more than 700,000 EU citizens.