Introducing the ‘Comprehensive Sustainability Score’: A GearJunkie Initiative to Inform Your Buying

Today, GearJunkie and our partner sites at Lola Digital Media announce an ongoing initiative, the Comprehensive Sustainability Score (CSS). Here’s what you need to know.

The outdoor industry is often at the cutting edge of sustainability. With companies like Patagonia and prAna pioneering recycled and organic materials more than 20 years ago, it’s clear that where the outdoor industry leads, other industries follow.

But while the outdoor media has embraced coverage of sustainability measures, outdoor gear review sites come up short in giving quantitative measures of the sustainability of given products — until now.

Meet the Comprehensive Sustainability Score. This scoring system will strive to give consumers a clear picture of the way their purchases impact the environment.

Lola Digital Media will launch our Comprehensive Sustainability Score starting today. We recognize this will require much work, both from our team and through cooperation with hundreds of brands. We’re excited to get it done.

Comprehensive Sustainability Score: What Is It?

The Comprehensive Sustainability Score (CSS) distinguishes which products consumers can buy to minimize their impact on the environment. They will find the CSS for each product listed in buying guides to help inform their decision-making process.

The CSS will be:

  • Quantitative
  • Research-based
  • Prominent
  • A key determinant of which products we recommend

An important note: Because we already have hundreds of guides live on our sites, you will find these rolling out slowly over the coming months and years. We realize it will take one step at a time to get this work done. You can find the first example of this scoring on our Best Down Jackets story, updated today.

CSS: How We Find It

While some companies have begun similar work to rank brand sustainability, the CSS will go a step further. We will consider product-specific attributes such as the percentage of recycled material, clean energy used in production, and packaging waste created in shipping.

But because every product category is different, we will research each before creating questionnaires for brands.

Our reporters will ask companies for these details, as well as verify them when we receive shipments. This can be as simple as noting how many polybags or styrofoam cubes are used in each box.

We then score each product according to the answers received in a questionnaire sent to brands. Because there is some subjectivity in scoring, two editors score each product, and we then average the scores to find a grand total.

We then display the CSS on buying guides such as the image below. If a brand does not reply to our questionnaire, we simply mark the CSS as “NA.”

CSS-NA 3x2

CSS: An Evolving Process

We make this announcement today as we publish our first set of CSS scores in our buying guide for the Best Down Jackets. More will be coming in the near future.

For the brand managers out there, this is your heads up. Please be ready to answer hard questions about your sustainability efforts as we work to implement our new system.

For consumers, please keep an eye open for sustainability badging on our new buyers’ guides. While it will take weeks and months to implement this across our thousands of guides, the work has already begun.

We realize this project will require sacrifice and time from many people. And we know the process must evolve as we learn more about rating sustainability measures. So our lines of feedback will be wide open to dialogue with both consumers and brands.

But we think this project can make the world just a little better. By giving consumers an easily digestible way to support sustainability with their dollars, we hope to encourage more brands to take steps to reduce the impact of manufacturing.

Join us as we launch the CSS today across our portfolio of websites. We hope it will make a difference, one purchase at a time.

Sean McCoy

Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.