REI’s intention is to know, share and address the environmental and social impacts of each phase of a product’s life cycle – from the source of raw materials to the time the product is made to when it is sold to a customer to when it is no longer used. We are committed to disclosing that information to members in ways that are accurate, meaningful and relevant.
While we are not yet able to measure the total impact of the products we sell, we are working to validate our assumption that the collective environmental impact from our products is likely larger than the sum of all other impacts we have as a company.
Understanding and measuring the impacts of products at all phases of the life cycle is a complex and difficult task for many reasons. Chief among those reasons is that our supply chain partners often do not know or are reluctant to share deep information about the chemistry, manufacturing process and sourcing of materials. However, by working together with other brands, suppliers, academics and the NGO community, we can think differently and achieve different results.
Our primary tool for this work is the Outdoor Industry Association's Eco Index, in which REI has taken a leadership role. While it is still in the early stages, over time the Eco Index promises to create consistent, industry-wide, reportable indicators and metrics of product impacts. It is our goal to use that information to improve our decisions in product design, materials selection and factory sourcing.
In the meantime, we are reporting on key efforts of our progress, including the pilot test of the Eco Index indicators.
In 2007, we introduced REI's ecoSensitive label, identifying products that were made from materials with improved environmental attributes compared to their conventional counterparts. At its peak, we offered 250 REI-brand products featuring the label.
In 2011, we discontinued the use of the label and began more broadly communicating all of our products’ general environmental attributes. The lessons learned from ecoSensitive are now incorporated into a more fully developed program as part of our holistic product stewardship efforts for REI-brand products. To learn more about the history of ecoSensitive at REI and our transition to the new program, visit http://www.rei.com/ecosensitive.
We have collaborated with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition for several years to develop and implement packaging guidelines across the company. In 2010, the OIA Eco Working Group adopted guidelines and indicators based on this work.
As a result, we have reduced package volume, improved transportation efficiency and elimination of unwanted materials such as PVC clamshells in our branded products. We share this progress across the outdoor industry so that other brands can learn from our experiences. The results of our work are captured in other sections of this report, including reduced transportation–related GHG emissions, reduced waste due to packaging and the near elimination of unknown fiber sources in our paper packaging.
REI has been a member of bluesign technologies ag since 2008. We believe the bluesign standard is the strongest global solution available to proactively address textile environmental, health and safety issues, specifically the impacts of chemicals in fabrics and processing. bluesign uses the principals of “green chemistry” to evaluate chemicals such as dyes and process chemicals to identify possible hazards and suggest more benign alternatives. In addition, the program requires tight manufacturing controls in mills and factories in order to be certified. We face a challenge in the rate of adoption because of the relatively small size of bluesign as an organization compared to the scale of the textile industry.
It is our intention to use vendors and products that are bluesign-approved, so our product managers are encouraged to make those choices where possible. In 2011, we began the process of gathering total textile data of core REI-brand products so we can better understand the percentage of our raw materials meet this standard and set benchmarks for improvement.
About 80 percent of the products we sell are manufactured by other great brands. One of the greatest opportunities we have is to collaborate with other brands in order to influence the entire supply chain regarding product stewardship.
To that end, we are very involved with Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Eco Working Group, a collaboration of more than 150 outdoor industry brands, suppliers, manufacturers and other stakeholders working to create a shared methodology for measuring product impacts.
In 2010, the Eco Working Group introduced the beta version of the Eco Index, which provides a way to begin to know and measure the environmental impact of products. Given the outdoor industry’s initial results with the tool, retailers outside of the outdoor industry are also currently evaluating it for their use. To support that progress, REI, Patagonia and other outdoor companies are currently working with major retailers and global brands such as Target, Levi, Gap and Walmart in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which has led to the development and adoption of a new tool to help designers reduce the environmental impact of products.
We are pleased to be a catalyst among our peers and other retailers to know, report and lessen the environmental impact of the products consumers purchase and use in their daily lives.
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