REI CEO Eric Artz: We Must Opt to Act

Dear co-op member,

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Like many of you, I have a lot on my mind this year as we head into the holiday season. As I look forward to 2020 and beyond, I find myself thinking more deeply about my role in fighting for life outdoors—both as an individual and as the leader of our 18 million-member cooperative.

The co-op has been around for an amazing 81 years and it’s my privilege, as REI’s eighth CEO, to serve you and our 13,000 employees. My job is to steward the co-op, and the outdoors, on your behalf—and on behalf of the generations who follow us.

Today, that future is at risk. We are in the throes of an environmental crisis that threatens not only the next 81 years of the co-op, but the incredible outdoor places that we love. Climate change is the greatest existential threat facing our co-op. I believe we do not have the luxury of calling climate change a political issue. This is a human issue. And we must act now.

By anyone else’s measure, REI has been a leader in sustainability for decades. We source 100 percent green energy for all our operations, we’ve been advancing toward a zero-waste goal for years and we’ve pushed the outdoor industry to dramatically raise the bar on product sustainability through first-of-their-kind product sustainability standards.

But it’s not good enough.

This year we’ve watched in awe as millions of young people in dozens of countries came together to demand climate action. And we’ve seen a new generation of consumers fundamentally reject the idea of “stuff” as status.

#OptOutside has always brought out the best in this community. For five years in a row, we have closed our stores on the biggest shopping day of the year, processed no online sales and paid employees to spend the day outside with friends and family. This year, we want to take #OptOutside a step further—both in the ask we’re making of you, our members, and the commitments we’re making ourselves.

Once again, this Black Friday, we’ll be closed and we’ll be paying employees to go outside with friends and family. We’re still going to go outside and play—but this time we’re bringing our work gloves. And we’re inviting you to join us.

It’s time to fight for life outdoors—and life on this planet. We must opt to act. Here’s how to start:

  1. Join us on Black Friday to #OptOutside with friends and family. Enjoy the outdoors and remind yourself why protecting it is crucial for us and for future generations.
  2. This year, let’s take it one step further. Please consider joining one of our nationwide cleanups with partners at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and United By Blue
  3. If you can’t find a cleanup near you, commit to picking up trash you find while on your hike—leaving our trails and outdoor spaces better than you found them. Our employees have already been doing this for the past month, and I am incredibly proud to see them leading the way for our community. In fact, so far they’ve picked up 4 tons of trash.
  4. Sign up for our new 52-week Opt to Act plan—sourced from tips shared by our employees—and take the small steps throughout the year to reduce your environmental footprint and create habits that last a lifetime.

As we ask you to steward the outdoor places you love this Black Friday, we’re also announcing a series of our own commitments. We’re rethinking the future of retail and finding ways for every REI member to take part in the circular economy with more used and rental gear choices. We’re tackling waste in our own operations and in communities across the country. And we’re redoubling our efforts to eliminate unnecessary packaging in our industry. You can read more about these commitments here, and we’ll share even more in the coming months about the ongoing ways we’ll be stepping up the fight for life outdoors.

As a single company, our impact is limited, but as a community, we can drive change that powers meaningful action beyond our walls. As a co-op, we know that many people taking many small steps together can add up to big changes. Collective intention will drive collective impact.

Because when the next generation asks us what we did when the outdoors and the world needed us most, I want to be able to say, “we did our best.”

This is only the beginning, but I hope you will join me and opt to act.

Eric Artz

President & CEO, REI Co-op