Raising the Bar on Product Sustainability

At REI, we’re working toward a sustainable future, for the planet and communities around the globe.  We’re excited to announce the release of the REI Product Sustainability Standards, which will help us raise the bar on product sustainability at REI and across the outdoor industry. It will also make it easier for our members to buy products that support their sustainability values.

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These standards build upon the work our sustainability team, our merchants and more than 1,000 brand partners have been doing for many years. REI has a longstanding commitment to sustainability in our own operations, and we’ve had sustainability standards in REI Co-op brand products for years. With these new standards, we’re more formally engaging all of our brand partners so that we can have a larger collective impact.

REI’s new standards do several important things. First, they outline our expectations of all brands sold at REI, including our own, for how we all manage key environmental, social and animal welfare impacts.  We’ve also identified preferred attributes—the most credible, relevant and impactful sustainability certifications that we encourage brands to pursue, like bluesign®, responsibly sourced down or fair trade.

We’re also making it simpler to buy sustainably sourced gear. You can now go on REI.com, type in one of the preferred attributes like fair trade, and see an entire collection of product that was made to that standard.

The new expectations established in our standards are aimed at raising the bar on chemical use in important categories such as apparel and tents, advancing animal welfare standards in down and wool supply chains and driving the use of key industry sustainability tools.

“We know that many of our customers care passionately about sustainability, and our goal is to make it easy for them to find products that honor their values,” said Matt Thurston, director of sustainability. “These standards will help us bring REI customers more sustainable products, while collaborating with brand partners behind the scenes to elevate supply chain practices.”

Many of our partners are eager to find ways to integrate sustainability more deeply into their businesses, and these standards are designed to help them do that. Collaboration and support are at the heart of our approach.

“The impact we can have together is so much bigger than what we could do as individual companies.”

We spent the majority of 2017 getting input from dozens of brand partners small and large, new and well established, who sell everything from apparel to footwear, packs to electronics. Their feedback helped us create standards that reflect best practices in different categories and are feasible for brands to follow.

Our smaller brand partners, some without a dedicated sustainability team, have told us that these standards provide a helpful framework to guide their sustainability efforts. That’s exactly what we want, and we are committed to providing them ongoing support. We have created and shared useful documents and recently hosted a series of webinars to help with the process. We will continue to engage and support as we go forward.

“We believe our approach with these standards positions REI and our brand partners to have a huge impact in raising the bar on product sustainability across our industry. The impact we can have together is so much bigger than what we could do as individual companies,” said Greg Gausewitz, product sustainability manager.

We realize that changes to product development take time, which is why some of our expectations take effect immediately, like creating manufacturing codes of conduct and having a restricted substances list, while others have a 2020 implementation deadline and an 18-month transition window for new brands. After 2020, we expect all existing brand partners to adhere to all of the minimum brand standards.

“We have an approach that we believe will resonate with customers, is feasible for brands and will help elevate sustainable business practices across the entire industry,” Gausewitz said.

These standards are just the first iteration. We expect to update the standards periodically to ensure they address the most relevant impacts and reflect the most effective and up-to-date practices and tools.

REI’s Product Sustainability Standards may represent a small step for any one brand, Gausewitz says. But when every brand we sell joins in, the collective action can move the entire outdoor community forward.

Read the full REI Product Sustainability Standards.

Learn more about eight sustainability traits to look for when you shop and why they matter.