Taking Collective Action
A message from Eric Artz, REI President and CEO, and Tony Truesdale, Chair of the REI Board of Directors
Our co-op was founded on the principle of individuals coming together for the common good. More than 83 years later, we’re still driven to enable a life outside for all. This means running a healthy business while creating a positive impact on the communities we serve. The release of our impact report and annual financial results is a chance to reflect on our journey, to celebrate our accomplishments, and to ensure we are upholding our values. We couldn’t be prouder of our people and our community after the last year, and we’re excited to share with you our vision for the future.
We entered 2020 with incredible momentum, after more than a decade of record growth. Then, the entire world came to a halt. In the early days of the pandemic, REI was among the first retailers to proactively close all our stores. We did what we’ve always done, putting our people and our purpose above all else. We took the time to create health and safety protocols to protect our employees and the communities we serve, and didn’t reopen to customers until we believed it was safe to do so.
The events of 2020 were an opportunity to completely re-examine everything—from the way we work to the way we serve our customers and members. We sold our headquarters buildings and began to imagine an entirely new future of office work. We took the co-op carbon neutral beginning with 2020’s emissions and committed to halving our carbon footprint by 2030. We invested in retail pay. We made a commitment to racial equity that will impact every area of the co-op. And we rolled out innovative new offerings, like virtual outfitting and Curbside Pickup, within a matter of weeks. Through it all, the loyalty of our customers and members, along with the dedication of our employees, made it possible to thrive despite the pandemic.
Today, largely as a result of those actions, the co-op is in a position of financial stability and strength and looking to the future. We ended 2020 in a strong cash position and reported $2.75 billion in revenue; we opened seven new stores; we continued to support our non-profit partners with $6.3 million; and we provided $112.4 million in rewards back to our members.
We have made incredible progress in our ongoing fight against the climate crisis as well; reducing our own emissions, building sustainability into our supply chain, and accelerating our efforts to advance racial equity at REI and in the industry. All REI Co-op brand products are Climate Neutral certified as of today, meaning the next REI jacket or backpack you buy comes with net neutral carbon emissions. This is part of a 14-year effort since we first began measuring our own emissions in 2006. The new certification, along with our updated Product Impact Standards, ensure that every product on REI shelves is building a more sustainable and equitable future for our planet.
As a co-op community, we have much to be proud of—and much more yet to do.
We’re starting today, with the launch of Cooperative Action. The idea is simple: harness the collective power of our rapidly growing community to combat the most pressing issues facing our industry and society—climate change and racial equity. It’s our way to amplify the existing impact of our millions of members, tens of thousands of employees, and thousands of vendor partners.
You can begin right now by joining the REI Cooperative Action Network. As part of our Cooperative Action platform, this new advocacy toolkit will give our employees and members an easy way to take action on policies and legislation that impact life outdoors.
The first issue we will focus on is the REPLANT Act, which will triple the reforestation rate in our national forests by planting 1.2 billion trees over the next decade. The effort will create thousands of jobs in the forestry industry, spur economic recovery in rural communities, and sequester 75 million metric tons of carbon—essentially erasing the use of 85.3 billion gallons of gasoline.
In the year ahead, we will expand the Cooperative Action platform beyond advocacy and introduce even more ways for our community to participate in our impact work.
One of those ways is by asking our members and customers to shop responsibly. We at the co-op are working hard to eliminate waste and extend the lifecycle of the products we sell. Our rapidly growing used gear business is a perfect example. Allowing customers to both trade-in and shop either in-store or online for gently used gear is a win both for them and the environment. Used gear simultaneously lowers the barrier to entry for an outdoor activity and keeps products out of landfills. Every used item purchased through REI represents, on average, at least a 50% reduction in carbon emissions when compared to buying a new item. Imagine what we could do if each of us opted to buy one item used instead of new this year.
While much of our work in 2020 focused on stabilizing the business, 2021 marks a new chapter for the co-op - one firmly rooted in driving purpose. The foundation of our business has always been you, our members. We welcomed one million more people last year, creating a more than 20-million-member community. Going forward, we will work hard to make REI membership more valuable to more people across the country.
We are proud of the work the co-op has done to lay the foundation for a more equitable and sustainable future, and we are eager to make even greater strides in the coming years. The stakes keep getting higher—for our planet, ourselves and generations to come. This is our moment. This is our fight. We hope you will join us.
President & CEO
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