OpEd: Burton goes big for Global Climate Strike

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Burton was founded in 1977 in a barn in Londonderry and Vermont has remained our home base since. We now have more than 400 employees working at our headquarters in Burlington and 1,000 in total around the world. These roots and our shared values with the Green Mountain State are a proud part of our company culture and identity. However, Vermont has fallen behind on its existing climate commitments and CO emissions in the state are on the rise. As a state that touts its environmental legacy and outdoor brand, it is well past time to take meaningful action on climate. Let's live up to our legacy.

Burton pioneered the sport of snowboarding, and it remains core to our business.

Climate change is a threat to this sport we love and the mountain lifestyle that we and our customers lead. Which is why the climate crisis is a priority issue for us.

There are clear signs of climate change seen through the lens of a snowboarder — extreme weather, decreased snow accumulation, and melting glaciers are among them. In the northeast U.S., the number of days with snow cover has decreased by one to two weeks since 1970. It is estimated that by 2100 only four out of 14 major ski resorts will remain profitable under a higher-emissions scenario — the scenario that the world is tracking toward today.

If shrinking snowpack and water scarcity aren't concerning enough, let's think about implications for the economy. Low snow years in the U.S. see $1 billion less value for snow industries and lead to 17,400 fewer jobs compared to an average season. Consider the even larger implications for outdoor recreation and tourism more broadly.

Outdoor recreation fuels Vermont's economy and communities, generating $5.5 billion and supplying 51,000 direct jobs, which is one in seven jobs in the state. We can't afford to put this integral part of our economy, and Vermont's tourism brand, at risk.

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For Burton, there isn't a choice to take action. The climate crisis is a business-critical issue that significantly impacts our industry and its recreation communities here in Vermont and around the world.

Low or sporadic snow years can have major consequences for success. Burton, our employees and their families depend on a stable climate to ensure stable income.

Burton recognizes our own role in contributing to climate change as a manufacturer, brand, and retailer. Which is why we are working hard to reduce our own carbon footprint and to promote renewable energy generation through changes to product design, manufacturing, and operations. We've set ambitious goals on short time frames. However, our impacts as an individual company cannot put a dent in global emissions.

The climate crisis requires disruptive action. Burton is shutting down our business and forgoing all sales for 24 hours as part of the Global Climate Strike and in solidarity with Fridays For Future students.

On September 20, we will be closed for business and open for action. Burton offices globally will be closed, and employees will receive paid time off to join strikes in their regions. All stores owned by Burton will be open to the public as a community gathering space before and after nearby rallies, with supplies on hand for making signs and engaging in other climate actions. And Burton.com will re-direct to globalclimatestrike.net to build awareness and promote participation.

Millions of students and workers around the world are screaming for those in power to take notice. Individuals and businesses are reducing our own emissions, but we can't tackle the problem without strong leadership from lawmakers. Policy change is crucial to reverse the detrimental effects of climate change. All of us at Burton urge our elected officials in Washington County and Washington, DC to join the students, stop delaying action, and pass systemic policy solutions that are equal to the severity of the climate crisis we all face.

Jenn Swain is global senior sustainability manager for Burton Snowboards.


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