Editor’s note: On Monday, September 16, REI Co-op CEO and President Eric Artz sent the following letter to employees.
Dear REI employees,
Right now, 300 co-op leaders are gathered in Sunriver, Oregon, for REI’s annual Leadership Conference. This year is my first as CEO. Serving you in this capacity is the privilege of my life and it’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. That’s why I’m writing to you all to share what I said to co-op leaders in my opening remarks this morning.
After more than two decades working in the outdoor industry and months of thinking about my responsibility to the people who built REI and the generations who will inherit the co-op from us, one threat sits far above all others.
Climate change is, beyond doubt, the biggest existential threat facing the outdoors and REI’s survival for another 81 years.
Every person on earth has a connection with nature. We all see and experience it in different ways, but it’s clear that the health of our environment is on a radical pace of decline. The air that we breathe, the water we drink, the complex ecosystems that sustain life—they are all under siege.
We do not have the luxury to dismiss climate change as a political issue. It’s a human issue and an impending crisis that we cannot afford to ignore, no matter how uncomfortable that makes us feel.
Future generations, in all their clarity, are taking action this week, striking on behalf of our planet, and we notice them. We are dedicating the entire week to covering climate on REI’s Co-op Journal, with stories about the new youth leaders of the climate movement, breaking down complex topics and examining the very real impacts of climate change on the places we love to recreate. We’ll be dedicating our social and editorial channels to this topic, handing the microphone over to the people who are leading the conversation.
I am humbled and inspired by these leaders, acutely aware of where I need to ask more of myself, and plan to use a Yay Day to join the action in Kirkland, Washington, on Friday with my daughters.
This week, it’s about the young people. In the coming weeks, I will share more about how REI is going to activate our community—our employees and 18 million members—to do our part. REI—our people, our employees, members and our business—support the next generation in this fight—a fight for life outdoors, a fight for the future—and we will not let it die. I hope you, our amazing employees, will lead the charge.