REI Co-op Update On Our Racial Equity Commitments
Dec 9, 2020
We believe that the co-op—and the outdoors—should be places where everyone can feel safe and be themselves. And we recognize that we have work to do—as a co-op, as individuals and as a society—to make that a reality. Earlier this year, we announced an initial set of commitments in the fight for racial equity, and committed to being transparent and open about how this work is progressing. Below is the first in a series of regular updates on this work. Highlights include:
- Launching our new Product Impact Standards, which outline our expectations for how REI and our more than 1,000 brand partners are advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Hiring FSG Consulting and Kaleidoscope Group to lead our internal audits
- Launching our Employee Resource Groups.
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 are partnering with experts in racial equity, policy and social change to better understand the inequitable systems that harm BIPOC. We are developing an educational roadmap that helps our employees understand and account for the ways systemic bias can show up, while assessing and changing our internal policies and practices. We are also collaborating with others across the industry to take structural, collective action to advance diversity in the industry.
We will center the voices of the people who are, and have been, doing this work, forming a 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 are forming our BIPOC Advisory Council, made up of leaders we have worked with in the past as well as bringing new voices to the table—all of whom will be paid for their time and expertise.
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.
- We have hired FSG Consulting to lead this audit, and named the members of our internal racial equity working group with representation from every division at the co-op.
Internal REI workforce practices
We will advance our efforts to hire, engage, advance and retain BIPOC employees at all levels.
- For holiday hiring, we launched a concentrated effort to reach a broader BIPOC audience combined with standardized talent assessment practices to reduce the opportunity for bias in the selection process. We will take key learnings from our holiday hiring to inform and further refine and enhance our hiring practices to promote fairness and equitable access to employment opportunities with the co-op.
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.
- This work is underway, and we will share a breakdown of self-reported racial and gender demographics in our annual Impact Report to be published spring 2021.
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.
- This remains a priority and will focus on leaders in 2021
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.
- Our newly launched employee resource groups are helping identify the ways the co-op celebrates National Observances and Commemorative Months.
We have reimagined our “Yay Day” day-off program as Co-op Way Days, in honor of our co-op values, and 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.
- We launched these employee resource groups in September 2020.
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.
- We have hired The Kaleidoscope Group to assess our internal workforce practices. The results of the assessment are expected by the end of the year and recommendations will be incorporated into our HR 2021 priorities and a broader enterprise-wide multi-year strategy.
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 are leading, participating and fostering diverse leadership within industry working groups including Recreate Responsibly and Climb United.
We will continue to work to evolve the brand and image of “the outdoors” to actively demonstrate inclusion while expanding representation and opportunity.
- REI’s Product Impact Standards (formerly known as the Product Sustainability Standards) now include expectations of REI and our more than 1,000 brand partners around diversity, equity and inclusion. By the end of 2021, we expect all the brands we carry, including our own in-house REI Co-op Brand, to:
- Establish guidelines for marketing assets, photo casting and photography practices to ensure diverse representation across race, age, gender identity and expression, body size and disability.
- Avoid using language that negatively impacts underrepresented groups to describe a product, collection, color or design.
- Implement strategies to prevent plagiarism, theft and inappropriate use of designs, patterns and names that are culturally meaningful to and originated from Native, Indigenous or other communities underrepresented in the outdoor industry.
- In addition, REI expects that all wearable products supplied to us be available in colorways appropriate for a range of skin tones and complexions by spring 2023. This includes all apparel and accessories intended to give the impression of bare skin to be available in a range of tones.
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 are continuing and expediting our work against derogatory climbing route names, working directly with Mountain Project on removing offensive names from the platform, guidebooks and maps. We have formed a working group including a national climbing association, climbers and nonprofits. We have invested and are participating in a holistic plan to end derogatory route naming for good by addressing the issues within climbing culture that have enabled it.
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.
- This remains a priority. As a recent example, REI is a founding member of the Recreate Responsibly coalition to provide resources for enjoying the outdoors safely during the pandemic. Building on the spring launch of the Recreate Responsibly guidelines, REI and the coalition added a foundational guideline intended to address racial equity gaps: Build an Inclusive Outdoors, which calls on individuals to do their part to make the outdoors safe and welcoming for all identities and abilities.
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 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.
- In 2021, we’ll be expediting our Inclusion Lens program, which helps creative and product teams at REI and partner brands understand and correct for the ways unconscious bias can play out in creative work, while equipping them to reflect the myriad ways people find meaning in the outdoors, in a more culturally relevant way.
We will commit to working with and growing BIPOC suppliers throughout our product and merchandising strategy.
- As we continue to onboard new suppliers, we are also working to break down barriers BIPOC entrepreneurs and suppliers face in the industry.
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.
- This remains a priority. We will ensure we are equitably supporting our non-profit partners.
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.
- In 2021, our Race + Place initiative will include virtual trail chats and conversations in local communities to:
- Explore how race affects the way people experience place.
- Elevate how communities reclaim their relationship to the outdoors in regions with complex racial histories.
- Engage our members to help address the barriers underrepresented groups face outside and build a more inclusive future.
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.
- The initial $200,000 investment is complete and support for our BIPOC partner organizations remains a priority.
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.
- Since May, we have supported over 25 stories across our social pages highlighting BIPOC partners and telling the stories of the BIPOC community in the outdoors. We have also looked for opportunities to amplify our partner voices through retweets and shares from REI’s social channels. We will continue to prioritize sharing these stories in 2021.
- Some of the stories and initiatives we have highlighted include:
- Hosting a panel on Parenting & Dismantling Racial Injustice at Home moderated by Black Girls RUN! CEO Jay Ell Alexander
- Supporting the Refuge Outdoor Festival
- Participation in the Stop Hate for Profit campaign stopping all of our paid advertising spending on Facebook and Instagram since July
- Support of the film“Do Better Together” telling the story of Ayesha McGowan—the first-ever female Black pro road cyclist.
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 spent fall 2020 encouraging employees and members to ensure their voices are heard by voting early, mail-in voting or absentee voting
- We shared how-to resources at REI.com/Vote. The online platform includes a tool to register to vote, check registration status and request an absentee ballot; state-by-state deadlines; voting guides from partner organizations; perspectives of why REI employees, members and nonprofit partners choose to vote; and how to get involved in the election process.
- We participated in Vote Early Day, a movement of nonprofits, businesses, election administrators and creatives working to ensure all Americans know their options to vote early.
- Given the serious challenges the COVID-19 crisis created for in-person voting, REI also joined Business for America’s Vote Safe 2020 initiative to advocate for safe and secure mail-in voting and safe in-person voting, and assisted with efforts to get personal protective equipment (PPE) to poll workers.
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.
- In September 2020, we announced ambitious climate targets. As we work to reduce our carbon footprint, we will push for environmentally just solutions that recognize the intersection of this effort with the fight for racial equity, as our success or failure in each area will have the biggest impact on already marginalized communities.
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.
- This year we participated in the Time to Vote coalition, a nonpartisan, business-led initiative to help ensure employees across America don’t have to choose between voting and earning a paycheck.
- For employees in states that require in-person voting, we offered flexible scheduling options as well as the option of using one of their “Co-op Way Days,” paid time off that employees can use to put our co-op values into action, such as community service, advocacy, voting, civil participation, outdoor recreation and stewardship.
While these updates outline our progress, they do not represent the end of the road. Our commitment to this work remains strong. And we will continue to bring our members, employees, partners and community along in 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 23 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.