OREM -- In rating ski slopes, "Black Diamond" signifies an expert run. In the world of ethics, Black Diamond also has come to indicate a high level.

On Tuesday, Utah Valley University awarded the 2013 Kirk Englehardt Business Ethics Award to Peter Metcalf, CEO and president of Black Diamond Equipment.

When Metcalf was informed of the award, he was skeptical, but learned that it was meaningful and prestigious, he said.

"We have received a lot of business awards, but what I am most proud of is the style with which we conduct our business," he said. As the manufacturer of outdoor and recreational equipment, the employees use the items they make, which helps ensure their quality.

"The fundamental purpose of creating this business was to make a positive difference on behalf of our fellow community of users -- climbers, mountaineers, off piste skiers and backcountry adventurers," he said.

He outlined goals, which included creating truly innovative gear and championing access to and preservation of mountain and canyon environments while working to reduce their environmental footprint. He also had another goal: "to do this in a manner and ethical style reflective of our sports that we were created to serve. i.e.: 'the means and style by which we accomplish our goals is every bit as important as what we accomplish,'" he said.

"That was very moving and for it to come from this part of the state, that was very special," Metcalf said. The company is located in Holladay. "You tend to have a belief that Utah County -- you don't equate with people who have a passion for stewardship and the sanctity of public lands."

That is another portion of the company's focus -- the activist role it has played to raise the profile of and champion the importance that "accessible and well-stewarded public lands play in the economic success of the state in the long term, let alone on our quality of life, which is integral to business retention and recruitment," he said.

David Keller, director of the Center for the Study of Ethics at UVU, praised Metcalf.

"As an environmental philosopher I have come to conclude that public lands have many sorts of values -- economic resource value, natural history value, ecological value, recreational value and spiritual value," he said. "Peter Metcalf is an exemplary business leader who has thought outside of the box and recognized all of the value of public lands."

Metcalf cited some examples. One was a high profile battle in 2003 when then-Gov. Michael Leavitt was considering removing protection from Utah wilderness inventory areas.

"We led a movement to create a third voice in the preservation and environmental debate," Metcalf said. "My strategy was to monetarize the debate and recast it, not as a philosophical or theological debate, not as a jobs vs. preservation debate, but rather as a jobs vs. jobs debate, where it was about what kind of jobs, what kind of industry and what kind of quality of life will be created and what kind of industry would create the most vibrant environment for Utah's long term economic success."

Leavitt had been focusing on recruiting high-tech industries into the state, but expanded his focus when he attended the Outdoor Recreation Show with Metcalf.

"He commented, 'I had no idea that such an industry existed,' " Metcalf said. The situation among political leaders has improved since those days, he said, including the realization that oil and gas leasing on those lands is not a viable solution by itself.

According to Metcalf, the outdoor industry:

• Is responsible for $4 billion annually in economic activity in Utah;

• Employs more than 65,000 people; and

• Generates $300 million in annual tax revenue for Utah.

"After over 20 years of effort, national politics has finally caught up with reality in acknowledging that 80 percent of the GNP created by the federal lands comes from non-extractive industries," he said.

Metcalf suggested that public lands undergo zoning, similar to lands within cities designating areas for manufacturing, commercial, residential and other uses.

"The same is true for our public lands," he said. "They are lands of multiple use, but a civilized and vibrant culture understands that you achieve that through thoughtful zoning and not via allowing all uses on all lands."

He compared Utah to individual attending high school reunions. At the 20th, most everyone is in good shape, but by the 30th, there is a marked difference in health and fitness.

"Well friends, Utah has turned 50 and has seen its 30th high school reunion come and go," he said. "Unless we get incredibly serious and disciplined about maintaining the fitness of the state's landscapes, open space and wild lands, they will be lost for all generations to come. And our quality of life, as well as the sustainable outdoor industry -- one of Utah's largest and most vibrant -- will have its competitive advantage taken from it, and once again the cycle that brought us here will start again, but in reverse."

This is the ninth annual presentation of the award. It is named for local businessman Kirk R. Englehardt, who died of cancer in 2003. He was president of Businessman Planning and Investment Research, Inc. for 24 years, specializing in securities and retirement investing. He also served as a lobbyist and spokesman for the investment industry and testified before the U.S. Congress. His family helps the Center for the Study of Ethics sponsor the annual lecture.

-- Barbara Christiansen covers news in American Fork ˜ government, schools, residents, business and more.
Read more from Barbara Christiansen here.