Opinion: REI’s View on Washington’s Initiative 1631

Editor’s note on October 16, 2018: More than 150 businesses, including Expedia Group, McKinstry, Microsoft and Vigor, have joined REI in support of Washington’s Initiative 1631. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Sally Jewell, Interior Secretary from 2013-2017 and former REI Co-op CEO, have also expressed their support for the measure, along with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who pledged $1 million to the I-1631 campaign. In total, nearly 360 businesses, organizations and groups have endorsed I-1631.

REI has been working to protect the health of the outdoors since our founding eighty years ago. Here in Washington, our home state, a new, ambitious piece of legislation—Initiative 1631—presents a significant opportunity to reduce carbon pollution in the atmosphere and benefit the outdoors. If voters pass I-1631, a fee will be collected from the biggest emitters of carbon pollution and invested in clean air, clean energy, clean water and an overall healthy environment.

Read an article explaining Initiative 1631

Read the full text of Initiative 1631

It is consistent with our long history of stewardship and our values as a Washington state business to share our view on I-1631. We would like to be clear that we understand opinions on this topic vary and that REI maintains a strongly non-partisan stance across a range of policy topics. We do, however, engage on those that matter to the outdoors and our community. Constructive debate is vital to a functioning democracy.

REI supports Initiative 1631 and we encourage others to support it with us.

Investing in Clean Energy is Good for the Outdoors and Our Economy

Washington state’s natural beauty attracts people to live here. It also helps our state to generate $2.3 billion in state and local tax revenue from a vibrant outdoor industry that employs at least 200,000 people.

The coalition of organizations advocating for I-1631 cite a wide range of reasons to vote yes, but here are four that stand out when we look at the argument in its totality:

  • The health of the outdoor community depends on the health of the natural environment and I-1631 would invest significantly in both. This will benefit future generations.
  • A wide variety of interests worked together to design the initiative, promising a practical, balanced and equitable approach. This gives it a good chance of winning at the ballot.
  • Money raised would be invested in clean energy, healthy forests, clean waters and communities affected by a changing climate. This will drive innovation and technological progress.
  • Businesses and experts in carbon pollution reduction would help direct the investments in keeping with the measure’s pollution cleanup targets. This incentivizes companies to innovate.

We make this argument fully acknowledging the role that fossil fuels play in our economy. Modern life depends on access to energy. Washington state’s population continues to grow rapidly and there will be an estimated 9.8 billion people on the planet by 2050. That’s why investing in clean energy technology now is an important piece of a broad effort to protect the lives we live.

We care about hiking, biking, hunting and fishing in the forests, mountains, rivers and oceans with our friends and families. If we want our kids to enjoy the same opportunities, maintaining the status quo is not a smart strategy. Investing in clean energy technology and the outdoors will help keep our home state strong, now and in the future. Paying something now that will have an impact in future is a smart investment. And we won’t be able to undo the results of sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing. We can’t reverse what we lose.

Consider other examples of how making a decision today could lead to a big, positive impact. More than 100 years ago, a small group of people chose to begin setting aside lands for future generations. Today, we have a national park system that has become the envy of the world. That small but bold choice led to a big impact that we all enjoy today. This initiative offers the opportunity to pay it forward in a similar way.

That opportunity is not only for individuals. Companies can play a role, too, and many are innovating to reduce the carbon intensity of their operations. Locally, Puget Sound Energy promotes the adoption of renewables. Washington-based companies like Microsoft, Vulcan, PCC Community Markets, Virginia Mason and Starbucks invest significantly in sustainability. Globally, institutions like Black Rock and Goldman Sachs argue for clean energy as a global priority. Even many large, global energy companies say that economic mechanisms to address carbon emissions are needed to ensure economic and environmental resilience for future generations.

This is not a niche or partisan effort. It is a choice to take action for our collective future. That’s why we hope more companies will support I-1631 as a multifaceted, pragmatic, collaborative approach. Together, we can show that communities can agree and work toward a common goal.

For more information on the work REI done for decades to operate more sustainably and to decouple our growth from our carbon footprint, read our annual Stewardship Report. 

For information on trends impacting the future of life outside, read The Path Ahead, which outlines nine macro themes each of us can choose to address in our own ways.