The co-op has a new president and CEO. REI Board Chairman Steve Hooper shared the news Monday evening at the co-op’s annual member meeting that Eric Artz will be the eighth CEO in the co-op’s 81-year history, effective immediately.
“After a thorough national search, it was clear to us that the best person for the job was already leading the co-op,” Hooper said in a letter to employees. “To his core, Eric believes in the purpose and impact of the co-op. Anyone who knows him well will tell you that above all, he cares deeply about the power of the outdoors to bring people together.”
Hooper, REI leaders and fellow board members were in Washington, D.C. to meet with members at the co-op’s flagship store in the district’s NoMa neighborhood on Monday. In addition to the CEO announcement, leaders shared the impact the co-op continues to have, the inspiration for the growth ahead and why fighting for life outdoors is more important than ever.
Standing beneath the words “Outside for all,” Artz said, “It is such a great honor to serve this organization. REI is so much bigger than a single person. You need to know that I am here to serve you. What you all do, each day, as employees and members of REI, makes a difference in people’s lives. My job is to help you reach more people. The fight for life outdoors starts right here at REI.”
The annual member meeting, held in D.C. for the first time in co-op history, capped off a week in the nation’s capital where Artz met with several local nonprofit partners and joined REI’s outdoor industry partners in meetings with more than 100 federal agency and congressional leaders.
The co-op’s impact in 2018
In 2018, the co-op worked to get more people outside, operate more sustainably, and protect and create access to the outdoors. REI invested $8.4 million in 431 nonprofit partners and stewarded more than 5,000 outdoor places across the country. In particular, the co-op is helping transform urban and suburban areas for outdoor recreation, investing more than half a million dollars in rewilding projects in five U.S. cities.
REI established sustainability standards for all brands and products sold at the co-op. With the goal of making it easy for people to make more sustainable choices, customers can also now search REI.com for products based on sustainability traits.
The co-op gave $77 million to employees through profit sharing and retirement, and it returned $204 million to members through dividends and credit card rewards. And a strong business made all of that possible: The co-op reported a record $2.78 billion last year, up 6 percent over 2017.
The REI community is also growing. More than 1 million new members joined the co-op in 2018, bringing the total membership to more than 18 million people who love the outdoors.
2019: A year of continued growth
As REI enters its 81st year, the co-op will do more to help more people get outside and enable cooperative change.
The co-op believes that time outdoors has the power to unite people and can help the outdoor community work together on important issues like climate change and our environmental impact, stewarding public lands, ensuring kids can get outside, and taking care of parks and trails close to home.
“The first step is to help people build a relationship with the natural world. If you love life outdoors, you are more likely to care for our planet,” Artz said.
Building on its Force of Nature effort, Wilma Wallace, REI vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary, shared that the co-op will continue to help lead an industry-wide effort to ensure that all people who have a passion for the outdoors feel welcome and represented.
REI Senior Vice President of Retail Tim Spangler told members the co-op is working to scale sustainability efforts in the outdoor industry, and helping more people get outside by significantly expanding its gear rental program and investing in used gear and gear trade-in options.
The co-op is also expanding its already broad offerings of outdoor experiences—from urban excursions to adventures on the other side of the world, according to REI Chief Customer Officer Ben Steele. And with Co-op Journal and Expert Advice, Steele says REI has the country’s largest library of how-to articles and videos to help people experience the outdoors.
In the 3,000 largest U.S. cities, two-thirds of people lack easy access to the outdoors, and one in three Americans do not have a park within a 10-minute walk of their home, according to the Trust for Public Land.
“No matter if you live in a city or have access to wilderness, we want to help more people discover how time outside makes life better. To prove the outdoors isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have,” said Alex Thompson, vice president of Brand Stewardship and Impact for REI.
Thompson said REI is investing in research to examine how time outside impacts our well-being.
“We can do more, together. And we must because the fight for life outdoors is more important than ever,” Artz said.
During the member meeting, Wallace also shared the results of the co-op’s 2019 board election, as voted on by REI members. All four of the board nominees have been seated.
- Liz Huebner is newly elected to the board. She comes to REI with more than 25 years of experience in executive financial roles in telecommunications, biomedical and media fields. Huebner is passionate about the outdoors and enjoys cycling and taking adventure trips.
- Tony Truesdale has been on REI’s board since 2013. He brings more than 30 years of experience in retail, including store operations, merchandising, supply chain and strategy development. An East Coast transplant, Truesdale now splits his time between Telluride, Colorado, and Scottsdale, Arizona.
- Bert Quintana has 30 years of experience in customer care and joined the REI board in 2012. Born in Cuba, Quintana now lives with his wife in the Florida Keys where they spend time kayaking and cycling with their three young grandnieces in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
- Steve Hooper, the co-op’s board chair, is a pioneer in mobile technology and telecommunications and an avid cyclist. He first joined REI’s board in 2013. Today, he helps guide new technology companies as they build their organizations on solid values.
Hooper announced that John Hamlin, who has served on REI’s board for 12 years—the maximum term—and has been a member for nearly 40 years, is leaving the board.
“He’s made a big impact on the co-op. He has served as board chair for four years and served on every committee of the board,” Hooper said. Hooper thanked Hamlin for his years of service to the co-op.
To see more highlights from the annual meeting, watch the full recap below.