REI Co-op Commitments in the Fight for Racial Equity
Jul 15, 2020
We’ve been inspired as the events of the past two months have created a collective pressure and urgency around the centuries-long fight for racial justice. And we’re committed to the profound work that is ahead—for ourselves, for our industry and for our society.
REI’s purpose is to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors in all people. The co-op and the outdoors should be places where everyone can be safe and be themselves. But today, that aspiration isn’t a reality, and so we have work to do.
For REI, engaging on these issues means doing our part to listen and learn, educate when we must and help prompt a national discussion about where we must see and lead change. That means digging into work that we’ve already initiated, work we need to accelerate and new bodies of work that we need to step into.
In order to build a more inclusive outdoor community and society at large, we know we must work in different ways and in different spaces toward the common goal of systemic change. We’re committed to this journey—and we’re committed to welcoming all who would like to join us.
Along this journey we commit to openness and transparency. Here’s where we’ll begin:
Grounding our approach
- As an organization and as individuals, we will account for our own systemic bias and identify areas where education is necessary, so that we can be effective, long-term advocates in the struggle for progress and equality.
- We will center the voices of the people who are, and have been, doing this work, forming a Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)-centered advisory council of outside experts. This will include engaging leaders we work with today as well as inviting new voices to the table.
- We will partner with an external agency with racial equity expertise to work in parallel with our internal racial equity working group to identify concrete action plans within every work group at REI. We’ll look at everything from finances to marketing to real estate to create a long-term, racial-equity working plan.
Internal REI workforce practices
- We will advance our efforts to hire, engage, advance and retain BIPOC employees at all levels.
- We will update our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) reporting practices so we are more fully measuring and publishing the data that will help us understand where we are on workforce diversity—and where we need to go.
- We will continue to prioritize employee education that promotes inclusion and racial equity, ensuring our workplace ecosystem understands individual and systemic bias toward BIPOC people and intentionally works to address it.
- We will recognize holidays, events, memorials and celebrations that represent the diversity of racial and religious heritages of our employees and community, starting with Juneteenth.
- We have reimagined our “Yay Day” day-off program as Co-op Way Days, in honor of our co-op values, and have added a third day for 2020. Employees can use Co-op Way Days to put REI’s values into action in the community and toward the causes and issues they’re most passionate about—things like community service, advocacy, voting, civil participation, outdoor recreation and stewardship.
- We are launching employee resource groups for people of color, LGBTQ+, women and military service.
- This year, the co-op established diversity hiring standards to increase the number of BIPOC people in our manager-and-up-level interview pools. In addition, we will conduct an audit of workforce policies, practices and procedures, including all stages of the talent acquisition process, including job postings, recruiting and interview practices. This audit will inform how best to achieve increased diversity at our leadership levels in a systemic, sustainable and equitable manner.
In our stores and the outdoor industry
- We will continue to partner with peers in the industry to work toward an outdoor industry leadership and workforce that reflects the demographics of the participants it serves.
- We will continue to work to evolve the brand and image of “the outdoors” to actively demonstrate inclusion while expanding representation and opportunity.
- We will work with the outdoor community to resolve the longstanding issue of racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and homophobic names for the places we gather to pursue our outdoor passions, starting with the names for many climbing routes.
- We commit to delivering relevant products, services and experiences that reflect the different ways members of BIPOC communities may find meaning in their relationships with nature, and to addressing the unique challenges and institutional barriers to belonging that many people of color at the co-op and outside confront daily.
- We will continue to work with our partner brands to help them bring an inclusion lens to their own design processes and will work collaboratively with industry partners to address persistent issues in specific product categories that impact communities of color.
- We will commit to working with and growing BIPOC suppliers throughout our product and merchandising strategy.
- We will continue trainings to help our frontline staff, product buyers and designers reduce instances of negative cultural impacts that may show up in the products, packaging and marketing from REI Co-op Brands and from our partner brands.
- We will continue to invest in a broad cohort of national nonprofits and other partner organizations who work directly to provide welcoming and affirming spaces for historically underrepresented groups. Some of our long-term For All partners include Outdoor Afro, Black Girls RUN!, Latino Outdoors, LatinXHikers, Brown Girls Climb, Black Girls Do Bike, GirlTrek and Hispanic Access Foundation.
- We will continue to evolve our Race + Place initiative. For the past two years, we have led an initiative exploring the ways communities of color are reclaiming and redefining the outdoors, as well as broader themes of racial justice in U.S. outdoor recreation. This work is informed by a dedicated BIPOC advisory council.
- We are investing $100,000 each in the National Urban League and to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, historic civil rights and advocacy organizations that work to fight injustice and inequality, and will continue to partner with and support our BIPOC partner organizations through this current national moment and beyond.
- We will continue to offer the broad reach of our social and editorial channels to our BIPOC-led For All partners and grantees to tell the stories they see as most important right now.
Government affairs and public policy
- We will be vocal advocates for voter registration, mail-in voting and voting early nationwide. As the recent events in Wisconsin and Georgia have demonstrated, the pandemic could create significant challenges in some parts of the country to the American right to vote—which likely would have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. In the coming months, we will seek to activate our employees and members to help reduce barriers to voting.
- We will elevate and advocate for issues relevant to the intersection of race and the outdoors, including public land use, environmental racism, climate justice and more.
- We will continue our commitment to the Time to Vote coalition, a national organization aligned on the importance of creating the time and flexibility for every employee to exercise their right to vote.
While this list of commitments is long, it’s far from exhaustive. It represents the moment we are in today and it signals the path ahead. None of this work replaces or impedes our longstanding efforts to advocate for people and communities, including women, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities and others. Instead, it builds upon and amplifies that work.
As a co-op community, we are in this for the long haul and committed to an outcome of positive change. And we call upon our members, our employees and entire outdoor industry to join us on this journey.
About the REI Co-op
REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of 21.5 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 179 locations in 42 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.