REI Co-op announces commitment to becoming a fully inclusive, anti-racist, multicultural organization
Effort will require transformation of REI’s business, workforce and community
Oct 7, 2021
SEATTLE – Building on its efforts to fight for racial equity in the outdoors and beyond, REI Co-op today announced its commitment to becoming a fully inclusive, anti-racist, multicultural organization. This marks an important next step for the co-op, which has spent the last year and a half assessing its current practices and identifying where it can become more inclusive, affirming and welcoming for everyone. The effort will require a transformation of REI’s business and ways of working to become an organization that:
- Recognizes and addresses racism as a barrier to diversity and inclusion, and embraces multicultural diversity as an asset.
- Embodies a culture and practices that engender belonging and full participation with diverse groups.
- Actively works to eliminate policies and beliefs that lead to racial inequities in the co-op, the outdoor industry and society.
While the co-op has always believed that the outdoors is for everyone and has worked to build a more inclusive co-op and outdoor community, the reality today is that outdoor culture and the industry are still not welcoming to or representative of all people. The outdoor industry is a $459.8-billion-dollar sector that has only a few Black-owned gear companies. Nearly 72% of people who participated in an outdoor activity in 2020 were white. These inequities stem from systems of injustice and racism, and a historically narrow definition of what it means to spend time outside.
“As a nationwide outdoor co-op, we have directly contributed to the inequities we see in our industry and in our society. Therefore, we are directly responsible for helping dismantle them,” said Eric Artz, REI president and CEO. “We must build a co-op and industry that serve all people and contribute to a better, more equitable future for everyone. As we pursue this vision, we will work to build a transformed co-op and society in which everyone can participate in a life outside, prosper, and reach their full potential.”
REI’s commitment to becoming a fully inclusive, anti-racist, multicultural organization is a continuation of its efforts to advance racial equity within the co-op and broader society. In 2020, REI accelerated and broadened this work as widespread protests created newfound urgency around the fight for racial justice. Since that time, REI has been working with numerous groups to identify concrete action plans to build a co-op that is welcoming and affirming for all people. This includes an internal racial equity working group made up of employee representatives from every division at the co-op; a racial equity, diversity and inclusion advisory council made up of external experts; and the co-op’s new Diversity and Social Impact Office, which will be built led by Wilma Wallace, REI’s chief diversity and social impact officer.
Over the last year, the co-op has made progress against an initial set of commitments, which includes identifying and advancing four of its biggest opportunities:
- Diversifying its workforce: REI is working to increase workforce diversity at all levels and drive widespread awareness of dialogues about race and racism. In the last year, the co-op has expanded efforts to diversify its pipeline of candidates, manage bias in the hiring process and build an inclusive environment for all employees. The co-op launched a six-month pilot in five key markets where dedicated recruiting and training support has been added to make meaningful progress in increasing Black and African American representation. By focusing on increasing Black and African American representation, the co-op will also close the gap across multiple dimensions of diversity within the organization.
- Diversifying its product offering: The products REI makes and sells represent one of its greatest opportunities to advance better and more inclusive ways of doing business. REI has continued to work within its own brand and alongside more than 1,000 brand partners to implement the Product Impact Standards by convening training workshops and sharing innovative practices. The Product Impact Standards include the co-op’s expectations that all products sold at REI incorporate inclusive design practices.
- Diversifying its supplier base: REI is creating new pathways for brands to sell their products at REI that don’t rely on traditional structures or industry networks. Earlier this year, REI launched a new vendor portal that creates direct access to buyers to help smaller brands navigate a large retailer. So far, 25% of the applicants in this program are brands that are owned or led by people of color. Additionally, the co-op will be announcing a new initiative this fall to further alleviate the underrepresentation of diverse suppliers in its offerings.
- Diversifying the stories and talent representing the outdoors: REI is working to ensure everyone can see—and be—themselves in nature. The co-op has continued to use its channels to highlight diverse perspectives and the ways different communities find meaning and connection to the outdoors. Examples include dedicating campaigns to celebrating the various ways people spend time outside, amplifying the work of its inclusion partners through the co-op’s social channels and highlighting diverse voices in REI Co-op Studios’ films, podcasts and editorial stories.
Becoming a fully inclusive, anti-racist, multicultural organization requires action and is part of a continual practice and journey. In the short term, REI is tracking its progress against actionable goals, while developing a long-term strategy to transform its business, policies and culture. As the co-op continues to advance and evolve this work, REI will remain transparent by sharing updates and learnings.
REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of more than 20 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 171 locations in 39 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.com, REI Outlet or the REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. Adventurers can take the trip of a lifetime with REI’s active adventure travel company that runs more than 100 itineraries across the country. In many communities where REI has a presence, professionally trained instructors share their expertise by hosting beginner-to advanced-level classes and workshops about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.