For many years, REI has been working to create a more welcoming, inclusive environment for everyone in the outdoors and to ensure our retail stores and offices reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.
We believe diversity and inclusion is a business imperative needed to realize our aspiration to serve our members and customers 100 years and beyond. It also serves as a strategy for attracting and engaging the best talent.
The co-op has aligned its strategy around three primary initiatives:
The Diversity in the Outdoors initiative is focused on increasing outdoor participation across diverse communities of color.
The Employee Diversity initiative is designed to attract, develop, promote and retain a workforce that reflects our community.
The work of the Inclusion initiative is the work of all REI employees. That is, creating a workplace environment and customer experience that is welcoming and respectful of all people.
Our work to bring greater diversity to the places where we work and recreate is designed to help bring us closer to reaching our vision statement, which was developed during 2010: REI is a courageous, culturally competent organization where diversity and inclusion are woven into the fabric of our company, driving superior business results and a sustainable competitive advantage.
This vision is supported by shared ownership and accountability across all divisions at REI. A significant leap forward in attaining our vision was the creation of a director-level position to provide oversight and dedicated resources. In addition, this leader will identify long-term success measures that help ensure focus, alignment and strategic direction.
Through our Diversity in the Outdoors efforts, we supported partner organizations in diverse communities with REI Foundation grants totaling more than $200,000. Grants were awarded to the National Audubon, National Wildlife Federation, Ocean Discovery Institute, Outdoor Outreach, Outdoor Foundation, WiLDCOAST, BRAG Dream Team, Inc., East Atlanta Kids Club, Inc., Greening Youth Foundation and the YMCA of San Diego County.
With REI's help and involvement, our nonprofit partners created life-changing opportunities for diverse youth. In many cases, these young people enjoyed the joys of the outdoors for the first time in their lives.
To reach even younger children, we distributed thousands of the Spanish-language version of our Family Adventure Journal postcard in 2010 for use by retail store teams. The Family Adventure program encourages families to enjoy the outdoors together and provides information about family-friendly hikes and bike trails in local communities.
Within REI's operations, our hiring managers focus their efforts on networking with groups that advocate for and support diverse communities. As a result of this work, REI has established relationships with nearly 190 organizations across the country. This network helps us have a diverse candidate pool as we recruit new employees.
When new stores open, REI does active outreach with community groups in the area, rather than waiting for people to apply. For example, when recruiting for employees for our new store in Norwalk, Conn. in 2010, we worked with NEON (Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now, Inc.), a local non profit that provides community development and emergency assistance services to economically disadvantaged people in the area. Their job placement and workforce development team helped us recruit and screen candidates, as well as provide an in-depth analysis of each candidate's strengths and opportunities. As a result of our partnership with NEON, we hired a workforce that is more than 30 percent racially diverse.
In addition to very high engagement scores obtained through our internal annual employee survey, REI continues to be recognized for its engaged workforce and culture of inclusion. In 2010, we once again received the highest possible ranking of 100 points on the Human Rights Campaign's "Corporate Equality Index." This annual survey scores U.S. companies on how they treat their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, customers and vendors.
In 2010, REI partnered with an outside firm to provide inclusion training for all managers and leaders at our headquarters. In a "train the trainer" format, we will extend that training to our retail management teams in 2011, who will in turn train our retail employees.
We recognize that we have a long journey ahead to become truly reflective of the communities we serve. We are still learning the most effective ways to engage with diverse communities to create long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.
The work, vision and successes of the three Diversity Initiative Teams have evolved the overall strategic planning process for REI as a whole and have produced a five-year strategic plan for Diversity and Inclusion. This plan was the culmination of cross divisional work across the co-op through much of 2010 and represents the next step in our journey. The plan centers on three core strategic objectives – Customers, Employees and Partnerships. Included in the roadmap are initiatives to establish a supplier diversity program and a customer segmentation effort to engage with existing diverse populations who are currently recreating in the outdoors.
We plan to bring our first-ever director of diversity to the co-op in 2011. In concert with their colleagues across the company, this leader will direct the overall growth and integration of diversity and inclusion across all business disciplines, align business needs with smart strategies, establish baseline metrics, drive leader accountability and deliver tools to the retail store teams. With the addition of this new role, we expect to make significant, long-term progress and demonstrate our commitment and intention to our members, our communities and our employees.
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