REI Co-op Reports Strong Growth in 2021, Setting Co-op Record in Membership
REI elevates commitment to outdoor community, giving more than half of the co-op’s operating profit back to employees, members and community
Apr 12, 2022
SEATTLE, April 12, 2022 – REI Co-op today released its 2021 financials and annual impact report, ending the year with $3.7 billion in sales, an increase of 36% compared to 2020. Affirming its commitment to giving back to the outdoor community, REI again distributed more than half of its operating profits back to its employees, members and nonprofit partners. The co-op also grew its community to over 21 million members, adding a record 1.4 million new members in 2021 alone.
“2021 was an historic year for the co-op,” said Eric Artz, President and CEO, REI Co-op. “Our co-op team and our partners rose to meet every challenge, from the ongoing pandemic to persistent supply chain disruptions, working together toward a common vision. Our members continued to turn to REI to help support the desire to spend more time outside. And their loyalty to our business enables us to continue investing in the communities we serve.”
The power of a co-op
The 2021 financials also represented historic returns for REI’s community of employees, members and nonprofit partners. The co-op distributed a record $234 million in member rewards—more than double last year’s—and invested $128.9 million in employee profit sharing, retirement and performance incentives – more than triple last year’s. The co-op invested another $7.1 million to more than 450 nonprofit partners working to address industry inequities and protect the planet.
“In addition to the incredible business performance made possible by our dedicated teams, I am equally inspired and grateful for the progress we made in 2021 against the co-op's impact priorities: the climate crisis and racial inequality,” said Artz. “We have much work to do, as both a business and an industry, but I’m proud of how the co-op community came together to drive meaningful change in the fight for the health of our planet and equitable access to the outdoors.”
Last April, the co-op invited its community to join the Cooperative Action Network: a grassroots advocacy program that gives everyone an easy way to take action on policies and legislation that impact the outdoors. Over the last year, more than 25,000 people penned more than 100,000 letters to Congress urging action on climate, equity, and conservation—leading to the passage of two crucial bipartisan bills to tackle the climate crisis and elevate equity outdoors.
In October 2021, REI launched the REI Cooperative Action Fund, a new public charity that gives grants to nonprofits across the country that are working towards a more equitable and inclusive outdoor culture. The Fund invites every member of the co-op community to contribute to a nationwide network of nonprofit organizations promoting justice, equity and belonging in the outdoors. For its inaugural grantmaking, the Cooperative Action Fund invested over $1.4 million in 19 nonprofit partners.
Equity and Belonging in the Outdoors
As part of its ongoing commitment to becoming a fully inclusive, anti-racist, multicultural organization, REI piloted several new initiatives to increase diversity and equity within the co-op and the greater outdoor industry.
“We made significant progress throughout 2021 in our equity, inclusion and belonging efforts,” said Wilma Wallace, Chief Diversity and Social Impact Officer, REI Co-op. “We recognize that we still have work to do as a co-op, but we’re pleased with the progress in our hiring and sourcing practices, and the launch of Path Ahead Ventures. Looking ahead, we're focused on fostering more outdoor experiences and continuing to elevate the authentic stories that reflect the broader diversity of the communities we serve."
In 2021, REI launched its racial equity, diversity and inclusion (REDI) Advisory Council. The REDI Advisory Council helps ensure that the co-op’s DEI strategy is authentic, supports the vision and needs of Black, Indigenous, people of color leaders and communities; and works to create a more inclusive outdoor culture. The REDI Advisory Council has since advised on inclusive hiring practices, like bias in hiring trainings and changes to retail hourly hiring practices in specific areas.
The co-op further diversified its product offering in 2021 and launched Greenlight, a new vendor portal that creates direct access to buyers to help smaller brands conduct business with the co-op. The goal is to add 200 BIPOC owned or led brands to our assortment by 2030, representing more than 15% of the brands the co-op sells. To date, 18.5% of program applicants are brands that are owned or led by people of color.
REI continued to advocate for greater equity within the outdoor industry, with a focus on accelerating the success of business owners of color. In 2021, the co-op developed and launched Path Ahead Ventures, a new organization that offers full-spectrum support and funding to Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x and AAPI-owned and led startups. Through Path Ahead Ventures, the co-op will invest $30 million in 300 founders of color as they start and scale their businesses within the outdoor industry.
“Founders of color represent only an estimated 1% of outdoor industry entrepreneurs,” said Susan Viscon, Vice President and Executive Director, Path Ahead Ventures. "Through Path Ahead Ventures we can change the face of our industry by investing in founders who deserve to feel seen in the outdoors. We’re continuing this momentum in 2022, launching three new initiatives for founders of color. These initiatives include bringing more founders of color into the industry, accelerating existing brands led by founders of color and providing founders with investment and dedicated support.”
Protecting our Planet
REI is also making sustainable purchases more accessible through Re/Supply, a program which allows co-op members to trade in and purchase used gear. Buying used gear instead of new typically avoids carbon emissions of 50% or more. In 2021, REI reported revenue growth of 86% for its used gear business compared to 2020.
“We are working to create the largest marketplace for high-quality used outdoor gear and apparel,” said Ben Steele, Chief Customer Officer, REI Co-op. “We’re welcoming a future where used gear and rentals will make up a significant portion of the co-op's business. We brought our member trade-in program to select stores in 2021 and are planning to have our trade-in service live in all our retail stores by midyear.”
REI also made progress to reduce its impact on the planet. The co-op purchased over 257,000 metric tons of CO2eq to fully offset its 2021 operational emissions and diverted 83% of its operational waste from landfills. This purchase included credits created from forestry projects in North America to cookstove projects in Uganda. In 2021, the co-op announced a new partnership with the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy in support of the Family Forest Carbon Program, from which the co-op committed to purchasing verified carbon credits over the next six years.
Full audited financials for 2021 are available here. Explore additional details of the co-op’s impact at rei.com/stewardship.
2021 by the numbers:
- $3.7 billion in revenue, a 36% increase year over year
- Net income of $97.7 million
- Invested $128.9 million in employee profit sharing, retirement and performance incentives
- Distributed a record $234 million to members through co-op member rewards (100% patronage dividend, issued subsequently in 2022)
- Distributed more than half of profits back to members, employees and nonprofit partners
- Welcomed 1.4 million new members to the co-op
- Investing $30 million in 300 founders of color as they start and scale their businesses within the outdoor industry
- Invested $7.1 million in more than 450 nonprofit partners
- Launched the REI Cooperative Action Fund, which in its inaugural grantmaking invested over $1.4 million in 19 nonprofit partners
- Opened eight new stores, across seven states
- Passed two bills through the Cooperative Action Network
- Purchased over 257,000 metric tons of CO2eq to fully offset operational emissions
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 181 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.