A group of people walking in a line in the rain on a beach

Partners in Progress

REI believes great things happen when people unite in pursuit of a common purpose. We collaborate with our employees, members and the broader outdoor industry to impact the world for good.

The co-op remained dedicated to philanthropy in 2021, supporting more than 450 organizations around the country, with cumulative donations in excess of $7 million. (These donations came from the REI Co-op Treasury; not the newly-created REI Cooperative Action Fund.)

Since 1976, REI and its affiliated 501(c)(3) charities* have invested $124 million in organizations across the country that share the goal of creating access to outdoor places and enabling transformational outdoor experiences for all people.

A Year of Cooperative Action

In April 2021, the co-op invited its nearly 15,000 employees, over 21 million members and everyone in its community to take action on climate change and equitable access to the outdoors through a new cooperative action platform. We believe that, together, we can create a future where the power of the outdoors is available to every person, where all feel safe and welcome, and the health of our planet is protected for generations to come. 

Also in April, we launched the Cooperative Action Network

This grassroots advocacy toolkit builds on the co-op's decades of policy and advocacy work and gives everyone an easy way to take a stand on policies and legislation that impact the outdoors. Participants can email Congress, sign petitions, receive action alerts and share their support on social media. 

Below are some of the highlights from our first year of Cooperative Action: 

  • In its first nine months of operation, the Network helped pass two historic federal bills. The first will plant 1.2 billion trees on our National Forests over the next decade and sequester 75 million metric tons of carbon. The second will establish and steward safe biking and walking trails nationwide, especially in historically marginalized communities. The Network generated over 100,000 messages to Congress and brought tens of thousands of new voices into the conversation.
  • In October, we launched the REI Cooperative Action Fund. This is a new public charity designed to harness our community’s collective power and bring additional funding into the fight for a more equitable and inclusive outdoor community. The Fund allows co-op employees, members, and the public to contribute to a nationwide network of nonprofit organizations promoting justice, equity and belonging in the outdoors. For its inaugural grantmaking, the Fund invested over $1.4 million in 19 nonprofit partners.

Path Ahead Ventures

The co-op unveiled Path Ahead Ventures in the fall of 2021, a new initiative that will invest $30 million in 300 current and aspiring founders of color as they start and scale their businesses in the outdoor industry. Through Path Ahead Ventures, REI will leverage its network, capabilities, and community to partner with Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x, and Asian American Pacific Islander entrepreneurs to build their businesses faster. As founders of color succeed, the industry will become stronger, more inclusive and welcoming to all people.  

The initiative includes two programs to support founders at varying stages in their journey, as well direct equity investments, through its $30M fund. The Embark program supports aspiring founders looking to turn their early-stage ideas into viable business models. Accepted founders receive an equity-free grant and complete a three-month virtual training developed in collaboration with Founded Outdoors. The Navigate program launches in 2022 and will support existing founders in scaling their businesses. In addition to funding, founders in the Navigate program will have access to resources for production, distribution, publicity, and networking.

Product Impact Standards

This past year, we continued our work with industry partners to support their progress against the REI Product Impact Standards. Updated in December 2020, the Standards articulate the co-op’s expectations for how brands should address carbon reduction, inclusive marketing practices and cultural designs in their products.

In 2021, we partnered with Equitably Designed to support REI teams and over 1,400 brand partners in their implementation of these standards. Support included in-depth training on topics ranging from Inclusive Design 101 to cultural appropriation, gender segmentation, inclusive sizing, inclusive language and copy, and more.

We hosted panel discussions featuring industry and community experts, brand partners, and practitioners bringing these concepts to life. We held Live Design Hackathons for REI product teams to foster innovation and inclusivity in the design process. Finally, we convened quarterly gatherings with inclusion partners to share practices, hear feedback, and integrate their needs and priorities into our approach.

#RecreateResponsibly

The co-op provided ongoing support to the #RecreateResponsibly coalition throughout 2021. Founded by REI and a handful of partners in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the coalition came together to help raise awareness of best practices in outdoor spaces as record numbers of Americans flocked to parks and trails.

Initially, the Coalition created a set of core principles for enjoying time outside while staying safe. By the end of 2021, however, the Coalition had grown to seven state chapters and garnered participation from over 1,600 businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, and other influential voices. The group has expanded its guidance to cover winter adventures, wildfire concerns and how to build a more inclusive outdoors.

*As of 2021, REI Co-op supports two affiliated 501(c)(3) charities. The REI Foundation is a private charity dating back to the early 1990s. It has a corpus of more than $6 million, and in 2021 made a start-up donation of $500,000 to the new public charity, the REI Cooperative Action Fund. It is the current intent to wind-down the private charity, with the lion’s share of its corpus to be donated the Fund for its long-term sustainability. The work of the REI Cooperative Action Fund is described above and at www.REIFund.org