European Outdoor Conservation Association calls for bike industry to join effort
“Who is looking after the extraordinary habitats and landscapes that your customers love to explore on their bikes around the world?” That’s the question posed by Tanya Bascombe, Joint General Manager of the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA). “Who is protecting threatened biodiversity in these special places, and ensuring that these ecosystems remain healthy so that they can play their part in drawing down and storing carbon? Well, the good news is that the EOCA is doing just that, and it can do that on your behalf!”
If you’ve been paying attention to the the conversations in China at COP 15 about the urgent need to address the loss of biodiversity, and the conversations in Glasgow about the need to tackle the climate crisis, you’ll be aware that now is the time to reassess your company’s CSR strategy and to ensure that it is the absolute best it can be. “We all can and must play our part – now,” says Bascombe. “Together with looking at carbon emissions in your whole supply chain and sourcing materials ethically and sustainably, there is transport, waste, water use and a whole host of other things to think about. But what about the places where your customers use your products?” she asks.
Established in 2006, EOCA is a not-for-profit membership organisation which has over 150 members, all companies that make and sell products that are used in the great outdoors. So far, these members have collectively put over €4 million into conservation projects in 59 different countries around the world.
So how does EOCA work? Catherine Savidge, Joint General Manager, explains: “EOCA raises funds through a membership fee, with the amount dependent on European turnover. It also raises money from fundraising activities with its members. Twice a year, EOCA then invites not-for-profit organisations to apply for funding of up to €30,000 for conservation projects. Well established criteria for the types of projects it will fund, together with support from a panel of scientific advisers from different areas of conservation all ensure that the projects selected for funding are the best ones from a conservation point of view. The projects must protect, enhance or restore a threatened habitat or landscape, work with and benefit the local community, it must leave a positive legacy, tackle climate change, and provide an educational element. All projects must also have a link to outdoor enthusiasts to ensure they are relevant to our members.”
“A shortlist of the very best of the applications is drawn up using the criteria and then these projects are put into a vote,” Savidge continued. “There is a vote for members to select some of projects to be funded. There is also a public vote when members of the public and outdoor enthusiasts are asked to have their say on which projects they would like to see supported by EOCA. This vote attracts huge attention, registering nearly 140,000 votes during 2021 and having a string of high profile people showing their support for projects over the years including the President of Costa Rica, Sir David Attenborough, popstars, politicians and Miss Nepal! This voting process benefits all of the projects involved by spreading the environmental message of the project on an international platform and often leads to them getting further support.”
Arturo Balderas Torres, from CIPAD, a Mexican project which successfully won funding via the public vote in 2021, said ‘We were very surprised by the response and the way in which people were involved in the project voting, mainly young people. Thanks to this, we realised how many people are willing to support projects that contribute to conserving the environment and the eagerness that there is towards caring for forests and biodiversity in the face of the climate emergency. We received many expressions of support from all over Mexico and other parts of the world. It has been a fantastic and very encouraging experience! The implementation of the project will be a great responsibility for us due to the commitment we have acquired during the voting process.”
The projects EOCA has funded in the past are varied in location and methodology. They have included establishing biking routes to enhance protection of landscapes through ecotourism in Romania and South Africa; cleaning plastic pollution from environments with paddle boarders, mountain bikers, hikers, surfers and skiers; restoring, replanting and protecting forests in Scotland, Sweden, France, Indonesia, Spain and Nepal; and conserving the habitats of bears in Italy and Spain, red squirrels in the UK, orangutans in Borneo and elephants in Thailand.
Dom Ferris of Trash Free Trails, a recipient of EOCA funds in 2020, said “It’s our duty to provide riders, runners and roamers with the inspiration, information and tools to protect and enhance their trails and wild places. To achieve this, we need financial support, industry expertise and access to a broad network of outdoor sports stakeholders. EOCA provides all this and more, and their ongoing support is enabling our community to create a sustained improvement in the volume of single use pollution on our trails and wild places”.
Cristi Gherghiceanu, CEO of ADEPT Transylvania which received funding from EOCA in 2019 said that “the way EOCA has helped us to link Angofa Wild Centre to the mountain bike trails network has increased the number of those who get closer to Nature. And with this outcome it became easier to fulfil our mission of rural development and biodiversity conservation.”
All companies that manufacture, supply, distribute, retail, promote or use products that are used and enjoyed in the great outdoors are encouraged to join EOCA. EOCA offers a bespoke environmental giving programme, a key part in a company’s CSR strategy, with opportunities to get involved at various levels. This ranges from simply paying a membership fee, to funding your own company specific projects which EOCA finds and manages on your behalf via its Summit Membership programme. According to Catherine Savidge, “The association is unique in enabling a sector to work together to give back to nature. Nature that we all enjoy and on which we are all dependent. By working together, we can achieve so much more than by working alone.”