REI was founded by 23 climbing friends who believed that a life outdoors is a life well lived. From those origins, we know that great things happen when people join together in pursuit of a common purpose. Therefore, wherever possible, we collaborate with partners in our industry and beyond in our efforts to impact the world for good.
We actively seek out like-minded partners across business, nonprofit and government sectors to assure our stewardship efforts have the broadest and fastest reach. We partner with organizations that share our view that a life outdoors is a life well lived and we need to work together to assure outdoor opportunities are available for all. Our national footprint puts us in a unique position to convene outdoor industry partners, policymakers, volunteers, vendors, nonprofits and trade associations to fight for the outdoors. Each year we work with more than 1,000 different organizations in different capacities.
Putting the Recreation Economy on the Map
In 2019, REI and the outdoor community continued to demonstrate to policymakers and other influencers that outdoor recreation is a major driver of U.S. economic activity. We also have been expanding the conversation and pointing out that, by investing in outdoor opportunities as a society, the recreation community is driving multiple, overlapping benefits (multi-benefits). We believe that by creating and enhancing outdoor opportunities we not only feed economic growth, we simultaneously create benefits for human health, community wellbeing and the health of the environment.
Back in September 2018, the U.S. Commerce Department concluded that outdoor recreation accounts for at least 2.2% of GDP (more than either the mining/extraction or utilities sector). The government report followed through on a legislative mandate that REI, the OIA and others in the sector spent years advocating for. In 2019, several partners launched mutually reinforcing campaigns that speak to the multi-benefits of time outdoors including Rethink Outside, Outside I Can and the Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All. The outdoor community is a diffuse one, so it’s helpful to have multiple partners advancing a common message.
On a parallel track, the co-op and our partners have continued to work in state capitals to assure that governors and legislators know the full value of outdoor recreation to their states’ quality of life and economies. Many states take pride in their high tech employers and manufacturers. Our sector is on a path to ensure state decision-makers know that outdoor recreation is integral to their states’ success.
At the beginning of 2020, 17 states had created advisors to their governors (outdoor recreation sector leaders) or advisory committees tasked with optimizing states’ ROI in outdoor opportunities (up from 10 states at the end of 2018). By fall 2019, 13 of these states had signed onto the “confluence accords” – a shared set of principles for advancing stewardship, conservation, economic and workforce development, and health and well-being in the outdoors (up from eight the prior year). In many of these states – whether there is a rec-sector leader or just the discussion of one – REI is helping bring coalitions of outdoor advocates together for common cause.
Partnerships to Advance Product and Supply Chain Sustainability
REI scours the world to bring the best outdoor gear and apparel to our members. In the context of those global supply chains, the co-op is relatively small. But through strategic partnerships with leading organizations, we’re able to create positive impacts far beyond our size. REI has been a driving force behind some of the most impactful multi-stakeholder initiatives, bringing together both global retailers and small specialty brands to help address the most challenging social and environmental issues in the supply chains and communities we all share.
REI is a founding member of this industry-leading forum composed of more than 300 outdoor industry brands, suppliers, manufacturers and other stakeholders. The Sustainability Working Group launched the industry's first environmental assessment tool, which evolved into an industry-wide tool now known as the Higg Index. Efforts driven by the Sustainability Working Group include the recently launched Climate Action Corps designed to support outdoor brands in measuring, reporting, and collaboratively reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The forum serves as a source of best practices for the REI Co-op brand and as a key platform for sharing experiences with brands retailed by REI.
REI was a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), helping evolve tools created in the outdoor industry and scale them across the global footwear and apparel markets. The centerpiece of the SAC is the Higg Index, a suite of groundbreaking assessment tools that empower brands, retailers and manufacturers to measure their environmental and social impacts at each stage of the value chain. REI uses the Higg Index with our own brands and is encouraging its adoption across our leading brand partners.
This nonprofit organization was founded to inspire and equip people to accelerate more sustainable practices in the textile value chain. Originally focused on organic cotton, Textile Exchange (TE) has become one of the industry's leading sources of material sustainability knowledge and traceability standards. REI has worked with TE to better understand the environmental impact of our supply chains. We have also partnered to create, pilot and launch material traceability standards that now serve as the foundation for many of the most common consumer-facing labels.