European Outdoor Conservation Association
Год основания: 2006
Background & Development
In the summer of 2006, a small group of outdoor companies got together with the aim of raising money to put back into the Great Outdoors. They wanted to find a way of funding practical, on-the-ground conservation projects, supporting and protecting the environment they depended on for their livelihood – not to mention their own love of being ‘out there’.
Building on the model used by the Conservation Alliance in the USA, the European Outdoor Group (EOG), which founded the Association, decided it must be possible to achieve similar results within the European outdoor industry. Although many companies within Europe already had their own programmes of environmental giving, this was a chance to harness the collective power of the industry to put money directly into grassroots projects and make a tangible difference to threatened wild areas, species and habitats. Initially called the EOG Association for Conservation, the name was changed in 2010, and The European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) was born.
There are currently over 120 members of the EOCA, including brands, manufacturers, retailers and dealers stretching from Norway to Spain and from the Republic of Ireland across to the Czech Republic. In 8 years of existence, EOCA has funded 61 projects in 54 different countries, to the tune of just over €1.5 million – showing that, all working together, the European outdoor can really make a difference!
Conservation organisations which are nominated by Association members or approach EOCA directly, can apply for grants of up to €30,000 for projects designed to conserve specific species or habitats – not an insignificant amount in itself, and probably more than any one company would be able to fund alone.
The projects chosen are as wide ranging as the members, and the locations of these projects are not restricted to any geographical boundaries – so far EOCA has renovated trails in Macedonia, Scotland, Austria and Nepal; funded research into climate change and the use of pesticides across Europe; protected wetland bog in Ireland; restored, planted and saved forests in the Czech Republic, Bolivia and Sweden; created and improved valuable and threatened wildlife habitats for elephants in India, brown bears in northern Spain, red squirrels in the UK, raptors in Georgia and falcons in Bulgaria and cleared tonnes of rubbish from mountains worldwide.
Once project applications have gone through a rigorous application process; checking the organisation and its project is bona fide, meets EOCA’s criteria, and has scored enough points to reach the shortlist; members get involved in voting for their favourite projects. Not only this, but the general public are also involved in a separate voting system, which is run in association with several high profile European magazines, to help choose further projects to fund. In March 2014, over 10 million consumers were reached worldwide during the voting process, and a staggering 54,000 votes were cast across Europe during March this year to choose just 3 projects!
In an ideal world, EOCA would love to visit each of the projects personally – but that would leave less money to spend on the projects – instead a strict monitoring programme ensures all projects only receives the second and third tranches of funding once interim and final reports have been received, examined and approved. So the office will just have to settle for a few extra stunning images for the website and another cup of tea instead.
Apart from raising money to put into conservation projects, one of the other objectives of the association is to ‘promote care and respect for wild places’. This involves educating outdoor and potential outdoor consumers - firstly on what gear they need to make that first foray out into the Great Unknown, and secondly, once they get there and depending on what activity they are undertaking, how they can ‘tread lightly’, having the least possible impact on the environment they are in.
Following much research and discussion with a huge variety of outdoor sports associations, EOCA’s treading lightly section was launched on its website in the autumn of 2011. This was followed shortly afterwards with the gear section – discussing what to look for in all the differing areas of kit you might possibly need before venturing out – from soft shell to sleeping bags and head torches to rucksacks.
EOCA has had many proud moments over the last 8 years. To name just a few – how about 54,000 members of the public joining in to vote for their favourite conservation project? Saving an entire forest from logging in Sweden? Planting a new one in the Czech Republic? Removing over 78 tonnes of rubbish from mountainous environments? Permanently protecting 28,000 hectares of wilderness? Creating, restoring and maintaining over 200km of footpaths? Planting over 400,000 trees? Member companies selling ice cream, beer mugs, sandals and wash kits or pedalling smoothie bikes at trade shows to raise funds for conservation?
These are just a few achievements to date – some serious, some fun, but all very varied and important markers along the way. By July 2012, EOCA was celebrating raising its first €1 million for conservation – a huge achievement in just 6 years and a clear demonstration of what can be achieved working together.
Membership/ How to Join
Any company involved in the European outdoor industry can get involved with EOCA. Membership fees are based on a company’s turnover and range from €500 to €4,000. It is an easy way of having a company environmental ‘giving programme’ without the need for extra staff or increased workload that would ordinarily come with it - investigating potential conservation organisations, sourcing, evaluating and monitoring projects etc. Yet at the same time, each member can be secure in the knowledge that absolutely 100% of all membership fees and funding raised throughout the year goes directly into the conservation projects they have helped choose. Application forms can be found on EOCA’s website www.outdoorconservation.eu and can be filled out online.
As EOCA celebrates having raised over €1.5 million for conservation, it knows that more can and must be done. As awareness of climate change and the damage man is doing to the environment grows, so too the importance of the work of EOCA increases. The more companies that get involved, the bigger the impact will be and the greater the difference the industry can make to the great outdoors that is its livelihood – and more importantly: its passion.
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