For outdoor enthusiasts, whatever their chosen activity, spending time outside on the trails, mountains, and coastline, or in woodlands, is all part of the adventure! Most will also have a strong sense of protectiveness towards the landscapes they frequently visit. With the increasing urgency of the climate change and loss of biodiversity crisis, everyone is much more aware of the actions needed to take care of the environments that give them so much enjoyment.
The role of the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) has never been so important, as it works in partnership with its members from the outdoor sector, to fund grassroots conservation projects around the world. EOCA ensures that the projects it funds protect, enhance and restore habitats in a wild landscape, mitigate against climate change and tackle the equally urgent issue of the loss of biodiversity. It is also very important that the projects have a link to the outdoor enthusiast, leave a positive legacy, and are beneficial to local communities within these landscapes. Projects are selected for funding via votes held for members and also the public, after a stringent selection process against specific criteria.
Since the association started back in 2006, €4.5 million has been raised and invested in 167 conservation projects in 65 different countries. Over just the last two years, EOCA and its members have provided funding for 32 projects in 22 countries totally over €1million, thanks to its members continued support despite the pandemic. Last year alone, EOCA’s funded projects had a direct, and positive, impact on 470,000 hectares of landscape. Whilst this is an incredible achievement, within the previous two years 940 project applications have been received by EOCA, highlighting the substantial need for more funding for conservation work around the world.
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. To name but a few. All very different, but all vitally important.
In an attempt to grow EOCA and expand into other outdoor sectors, one of those being the biking sector, the association has applied for the Earthshot prize. This environmental competition was created by Prince William and Sir David Attenborough to facilitate change over the next ten years. It brings the environmental world together with funders, businesses and individuals to maximise impact, take solutions to scale and inspire people all over the world to work together to repair the planet. EOCA has had its application put forward to the Earthshot assessment panel by two nominating organisations and is delighted that these organisations have recognised the value of the work carried out by the association and its members, and that they have put their confidence in its future potential.
The funding from winning an Earthshot prize could significantly multiply the impact of EOCA’s work. Engaging new members from other outdoor sectors would result in an increase in the number of supported projects, protecting, restoring and enhancing more valuable habitats and implementing nature-based solutions that in turn tackle the issues of biodiversity loss and climate change.
Catherine Savidge, Joint General Manager at EOCA explains, ‘EOCA was established to provide outdoor companies with an easy way to work together to protect the great outdoors. It provides companies with an environmental giving programme, without the need for inhouse expertise or resources.’
“We welcome and encourage all companies to join EOCA that manufacture, supply, distribute, retail, promote or use products that are enjoyed and have a link to the great outdoors. This very much includes companies in the biking sector. Cyclists around the world are passionate about protecting the wild places they love, and EOCA provides a way for their favourite brands and companies to do just that.”
Becoming a member of EOCA can be as simple as paying a membership fee. Plus there are options for getting further engaged if companies wish. EOCA is fortunate to already have a number of members engaged in the biking sector such as Ortlieb, Vaude, Osprey and Camelbak.
EOCA is a unique model as it provides companies from an entire industry the opportunity to work together, giving back to nature. The impact can be so much more when we all work together, enabling the protection, conservation and regeneration of the outdoor spaces we all enjoy and care so much about.