REI Co-op update on our racial equity commitments

Apr 14, 2021

In July 2020, we accelerated our work to advance racial equity at REI and beyond. In addition to outlining an initial set of commitments, we pledged to be transparent about our progress and share regular updates.

Since our last update in December, we have formed an external BIPOC Advisory Council, completed our internal audits and are working on building our long-term racial equity working plan. In addition, we are launching a six-month retail pilot to increase Black and African American representation in our workforce and partnering with the American Alpine Club, Peace Peloton and Adaptive Adventures to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in the outdoors.

Below is a full update on our progress against our racial equity commitments.

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 working across the co-op to deepen our awareness of race and racism, its history and how it has contributed to the present inequities we see in society. We are building capacity across the co-op to approach problem solving with a racial equity lens.

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 have formed a BIPOC Advisory Council to support the development and implementation of the co-op’s enterprise-wide REDI strategy by ensuring that it is authentic, supports the vision and needs of BIPOC leaders and communities, and addresses inequities in outdoor access and environmental justice. Specific areas of support include:
    • Providing input and guiding the implementation of REI’s racial equity strategy.
    • Partnering and providing feedback on REI programs and campaigns.
    • Participating in workshops and education programs for REI employees and partners.

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.

  • Our enterprise assessment is complete, and we are working with FSG, PolicyLink, the BIPOC Advisory Council and our internal racial equity working group in collaboration with the senior leadership team to develop our long-term, racial equity vision, strategy, and roadmap. This is not a standalone initiative. Advancing racial equity will be ingrained as central to the work of 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.

  • Building upon the learnings from our 2020 holiday hiring initiative, we have expanded our efforts towards diversifying our pipeline of candidates, managing bias throughout the hiring process, and building an inclusive environment for all REI employees. This includes a six-month pilot in five key markets, where more dedicated recruiting and training support will be added to make meaningful progress in increasing Black and African American representation.

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.

  • Our 2020 Impact Report includes REI workforce demographics broken out by race, ethnicity, and gender, making clear the work we have to do as an organization to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce.

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 have developed a multi-year educational roadmap that provides ongoing dialogue, learning and development to support our commitment to build cultural competency throughout the co-op. This effort is starting with leadership teams and will be expanded to all employees later this year.

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 began 2021 by honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to social justice, with a co-op wide call to “Opt to Act” in community service across the country. Integrating the work of our employee resource groups (ERGs), we are also developing a strategic approach to acknowledging and celebrating national observances and commemorative months in culturally relevant ways that educate and uplift our employees, members, partners and community.

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.

  • Our four ERGs are off to a strong start in their inaugural program year, with more than 10% of REI employees registered as members and allies. ERGs are focused on talent development, building community, and advocating for change. These groups have taken the lead in planning and executing the way the co-op celebrates national observances and commemorative months and are becoming a resource for teams across the organization.

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 completed the assessment of our workforce policies, practices and procedures and are using the results to inform enterprise-wide workforce REDI strategy development, which includes education plans, the recruiting and training pilot and goal setting. The planning is scheduled to be completed by fall of this year.

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.

  • This remains a priority as we are helping to foster diverse leadership across the industry, partnering with organizations like Camber Outdoors to advance equity and inclusion in the outdoors.

We will continue to work to evolve the brand and image of “the outdoors” to actively demonstrate inclusion while expanding representation and opportunity.

  • We are working with brand partners to help them make progress against the REI Product Impact Standards by offering resources and sharing innovative practices. The REI Product Impact 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.

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.

  • Together with the American Alpine Club, we are supporting the Climb United coalition, a two-year partnership to address derogatory climbing route names and create a safer environment for all climbers. REI is specifically providing the following support:
    • Providing funding to underwrite Climb United’s efforts and program outcomes.
    • Elevating the issue of derogatory climbing route names through our content and social channels.
    • Creating pathways for employees, members, and the broader public to actively participate in creating a more inclusive climbing culture.

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.

  • Teams across the co-op are working to address structural and systemic barriers. Some examples include:
    • Building awareness about addressing language with roots in systemic racism, including business terms, digital taxonomy, creative and marketing copy, and product information.
    • Partnering with the University of Washington’s Human Centered Design & Engineering program to bring a REDI lens to
    • Hiring a dedicated program manager to help align and connect customer facing work that maps to these commitments.

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.

  • We have expanded our Inclusion Lens Program to include all REI employees and brand partners to learn how unconscious bias can show up in all of our work. The goal is to expedite industry progress against the REI Product Impact Standards and a range of other diversity, equity and inclusion related issues that can show up in products, packaging, marketing assets and the creative process.

We will commit to working with and growing BIPOC suppliers throughout our product and merchandising strategy.

  • This remains a priority. We are working to alleviate the underrepresentation of BIPOC suppliers in our range of product offerings and will provide an additional update on our efforts in this area later this year.

Nonprofit & inclusion partners

We will continue to invest in a broad cohort of local, regional and 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, Black Girls Do Bike, GirlTrek and Hispanic Access Foundation.

  • We redesigned and deepened our existing partnerships with BIPOC-led inclusion partners and added new partnerships with Peace Peloton and Adaptive Adventures. We will look to add additional partners throughout the year.
  • We launched a private hub in our Conversations forum to facilitate networking and capacity building across inclusion partner organizations.
  • We are collaborating with brand partners, including Subaru and Vuori, to further highlight leaders from inclusion partner organizations such as Black Girls Run!, LatinX Hikers, and Unlikely Hikers.
  • We are also in the process of inviting our local nonprofit partners to apply for two-year grants. This includes people-based grants to organizations that are led by and serve BIPOC and other underrepresented communities.

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.

  • Our Race + Place initiative kicks off this fall and 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 December, we have supported over 10 stories across our platforms to highlight the work of our inclusion partners and share stories that promote inclusion in the outdoors.
  • Some examples include:

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 continue to advocate for voting rights for all Americans and condemn recent efforts to suppress voting access, particularly bills that would disproportionately impact the BIPOC community. We have joined Civic Alliance—a business alliance that stands in solidarity with Black executives and other leaders—to support the voting rights movement.

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 have launched our new Cooperative Action platform to harness the collective power of our 20-million-member community and nearly 15,000 employees to combat the most pressing issues facing the outdoor industry and society—climate change and racial equity.

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.

  • In 2020 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 we continue to make progress against these commitments, we know that systemic change takes time. We remain deeply committed to this journey and making the co-op a place where everyone can feel safe and welcome to be themselves.

As we advance this work, we will continue to share updates and evolve these commitments, while bringing our members, employees, partners and community along the way.

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 188 locations in 42 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.comREI 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.