Climate and Diversity: Ready for REI’s new standards?

REI fights climate change and advances equity in the industry with bold new product impact standards that address carbon reduction, inclusive marketing practices and cultural designs.

To collectively fight against climate change and advance equity in the industry, REI Co-op is engaging its more than 1,000 brand partners to advance more sustainable and inclusive business practices. The REI Product Impact Standards include the co-op’s expectations for how brands are addressing carbon reduction, inclusive marketing practices and cultural designs in the products they make and sell to REI.

The standards first launched in 2018 as a way for REI to advance sustainability across the industry and have expanded to include additional areas of impact. The standards also include voluntary product certifications, known as preferred attributes, which includes recognition for products that are certified to Climate Neutral, bluesign, or other leading standards supporting organic ingredients, recycled materials or fair trade. REI is committing that, by 2030, all products on its shelves will have a preferred attribute so that every purchase at REI supports a healthier, cleaner, more equitable planet.

“The products we carry represent our values and one of our greatest opportunities to support better ways of doing business in our industry,” said Chris Speyer, REI vice president of product.

“We want our members and customers to shop with confidence, knowing that the products they purchase at REI are helping build a better future for the people and places they love.”

The REI Product Impact Standards (previously Product Sustainability Standards) are designed to evolve over time to ensure the co-op proactively engages partners on the industry’s most pressing and meaningful topics. When the standards were first launched in 2018, they were hailed as the first of their kind in the retail industry. Since then, REI has declared climate change as the greatest threat to the future of the outdoors and its business, and outlined a key set of commitments to advance racial equity at REI and across the industry.

To ensure the standards are both feasible and impactful, the new guidelines were shaped by partner brands of various sizes and product categories. REI also consulted more than a dozen inclusion and sustainability partners, including nonprofits, advocates and ambassadors from across the outdoor industry and community.

While much of this work is underway at REI, the co-op will be working and learning alongside its brand partners as it implements the standards to its own REI Co-op brand products.

“REI is just a single company, but by working together with our partners across the industry, we can have a much broader impact,” Speyer said.

Industry support

“Caring for our fellow humans and the places we live and play in has been a priority of Osprey’s since day one. Our responsibility to examine what, how and why we make the things we do means that we are fully committed to evolving our process,” said Mark Galbraith, vice president of product at Osprey.

“By providing a comprehensive framework for base level brand expectations and aspirational preferred attributes, REI’s sustainability standards have encouraged us, and others who are just as dedicated to elevating sustainability, to step up our efforts.”

“Inclusivity in the outdoors is more than just a shift in rhetoric,” said Victoria Rodriguez, outings leader for the Los Angeles Chapter of Latino Outdoors, who helped shape the standards. “Our outdoor journey begins with seeing people like ourselves in natural spaces, and we choose brands that have inclusive storytelling, from messaging to photography, and everything in-between. By doing so, we encourage more companies to meet these standards.”

In 2019, REI customers bought 11 million products with leading sustainability features, and today, more than 3,500 products available on REI shelves and website contain a preferred attribute.

 

REI Product Impact Standards Update

There are four major updates that address carbon reduction, inclusive marketing practices and cultural designs:

  • Carbon footprint measurement and reduction: With plans to more than halve its carbon footprint by 2030, REI is holding itself accountable for each unit of carbon it emits in its own operations and products. REI also aims to engage brand partners to reduce the emissions embedded in their products and expects all brand partners to create an action plan by the end of 2021 for measuring their annual carbon footprint and working to reduce emissions embedded in products.
  • Incorporating preferred attributes to products: REI expanded the list of third-party certifications that brands are encouraged to utilize and will actively seek products that incorporate these preferred attributes. The co-op is setting a target that 100% of products on its shelves contain a preferred attribute by 2030 so that every purchase at REI encourages better ways of doing business.
  • Inclusive marketing practices: By the end of 2021, REI expects brand partners to establish guidelines for marketing assets, photo casting and photography practices to ensure diverse representation across race, age, gender identity and expression, body size, and disability. Brands must also ensure they are not using language that negatively impact underrepresented groups to describe a product, collection, color or design.
  • Cultural or culturally inspired designs: To assure diverse artists, designers and their communities of origin are properly credited and compensated for their work, REI expects brands to implement strategies to prevent plagiarism, theft and inappropriate use of designs, patterns and names that are culturally meaningful to and originated from Native, Indigenous or other communities underrepresented in the outdoor industry.

 

Photo: Dennis Schroeder

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jonathan.eidse@norragency.com