A group of people putting their fists together to hype each other up for a run in the city.

Partnerships, Philanthropy, and Government Engagement

We believe that time outside is a human right. The outdoors should be a place where everyone can feel welcome to be themselves, access opportunities, and connect with their community. From jogging in city parks to enjoying a picnic at a local beach to summiting high mountain peaks, people find meaning in time outside in many ways.

We recognize that we have work to do—as individuals, as a co-op and as a society—to evolve the outdoors and outdoor culture to be more reflective and inclusive of the many ways people enjoy time outside. In parallel, we must continue to support the health, vitality and accessibility of our parks and public lands. We must be good stewards of the outdoor places where we love to play.

Here are some of the ways we’re working to inspire and enable a life outside for everyone:

  • Offering an increasing number of inclusive, local outdoor experiences designed with and for diverse communities.

  • Supporting and partnering with hundreds of organizations that are advocating for a healthier, more accessible and inclusive outdoors.

  • Strengthening the REI Cooperative Action Network—our grassroots advocacy network—and our broader advocacy efforts to simultaneously:

    • Advance public policies aimed at breaking down barriers that make time outside less accessible or less welcoming for marginalized communities;
    • Fuel efforts to assure the government prioritizes stewardship of outdoor spaces.
  • We are growing our community-supported public charity, the REI Cooperative Action Fund, to harness the collective power of our members and further expand the movement for a more equitable and inclusive outdoor community.

Fostering More Inclusive Experiences and Expertise

Since 2008, we have been building multifaceted experiential partnerships with dozens of organizations and leaders working toward a more inclusive outdoor community, including organizations such as Adaptive Adventures, Black Girls Do Bike, Black Girls RUN!, The Venture Out Project, Unlikely Hikers, LatinXHikers, 52 Hike Challenge, and others who strive for a more inclusive outdoors. New partnerships in 2022 included:

Examples of how we worked with experiential partners in 2022 included:

  • Hosting 120 events that connected 5,000 people across the country to spend a collective 20,000 hours outdoors in celebration of Opt Outside.

  • Bringing thousands of people together in Oakland, California and Washington, D.C., to celebrate Black joy outside and launch the Outdoor Afro x REI product collection with local partners and grantees.

  • Collaborating with organizations like Adaptive Adventures and All Bodies on Bikes; and with outdoor leaders like Nikki Smith and Vasu Sojitra on community-centered design programs that help REI and our partner brands design more inclusive products, experiences and environments.

  • Working with local partners such as the Outdoor Journal Tour and Ch8sing Waterfalls to bring the outdoors to more than 2,000 people in downtown Atlanta over two days of outdoor activities, music, art and plenty of s’mores at the GreATL Backyard Festival + Campout.

  • Presenting the Boston Women’s 10K for Women—the Northeast’s largest women’s sporting event—and welcoming nearly 4,000 runners.

  • Helping our customers and community learn new skills, choose and maintain gear, prepare for trips, and have amazing adventures with expertise from leaders like Adina Crawford and Mikah Meyer.

Through creative storytelling, raising awareness, and engaging outdoor experiences, these organizations provide welcoming and affirming spaces for communities to grow their love for the outdoors. By building connections with one another, they are supporting a reality where everyone feels welcome to be themselves, access opportunities, and find their place in the outdoors.

Supporting the Broader Movement for Healthy, Accessible Outdoor Places

The co-op has supported outdoor-oriented nonprofits since its inception 85 years ago. We formally launched our place-based stewardship and conservation partnerships in 1973, making 2023 the 50th anniversary of our sustained programmatic work. Since then, REI and its affiliated charities have invested more than $135 million in organizations across the country that share the goal of creating access to outdoor places and enabling transformational outdoor experiences for all people.

In 2022, the co-op supported over 500 organizations around the country, with cumulative donations and sponsorships of more than $6.9 million. This is in addition to investments provided separately through the REI Cooperative Action Fund.

We do this because we know that creating a more accessible outdoors, and keeping our favorite places well-stewarded, is a collective effort. Change requires leadership and collaboration at all levels—local, state, and national.

Local Community Investment

Locally, our store teams identify organizations in their communities whose missions focus on conserving, protecting and stewarding public lands, as well as those that connect nearby underrepresented communities to time outdoors. We have a particular emphasis on organizations that are led by or serve the Black, Indigenous, people of color community, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and women. We accelerate change by offering multiyear, unrestricted funding for nearly 400 local partners. Examples include:

  • CorpsTHAT connects the Deaf community to the outdoors through education, recreation and careers. CorpsTHAT was founded by Sachiko Flores and Emma Bixler who are dedicated to the conservation corps experience and expanding the horizons of the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and American Sign Language community in the outdoors. ($6,000)

  • Get Outdoors Nevada connects people of all backgrounds and ages to the state’s diverse outdoor places. GON strives to foster and support a community that discovers, experiences, and connects to Nevada’s many natural environments, from wild landscapes and recreational areas to urban trails and parks. ($25,000)

  • Great Springs Project is creating a greenway of contiguous protected lands between Austin and San Antonio over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. This green corridor will be connected by a network of spring-to-spring trails, linking four of the Great Springs in Texas: Barton, San Marcos, Comal, and San Antonio. Great Springs Project envisions unifying existing local efforts to address the most critical water, land, wildlife, and public health challenges facing the Central Texas Region. ($15,000)

  • Greening Youth Foundation engages underrepresented youth and young adults, while connecting them to the outdoors and careers in conservation. GYF’s culturally based environmental education programming exposes participants to healthy lifestyle choices to create an overall healthier community. ($20,000)

  • Transportation Alternatives is reclaiming New York City’s streets from automobiles and advocate for better walking, biking, and public transit for all New Yorkers. ($10,000)

National and State Partnerships

The nation’s outdoor recreation landscape is expansive, both geographically and in terms of the types of communities and activities for which it serves. In addition to our annual support of hundreds of local organizations, the co-op partners with nearly 80 nonprofit organizations that are engaged in protecting outdoor places through advocacy at state, multistate or national levels. Examples include:

  • National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) NCEL facilitates shared learning and action among a network of more than 1,200 state lawmakers on a range of environmental issues. For several years now, REI has supported its Outdoor Working Group (OWG), a dedicated space for legislators to learn from each other, share best practices, and hear from experts about topics such as outdoor recreation, education, and equity. The OWG has already led to multiple policy successes nationwide and will continue to equip legislators with new ideas and the tools to incorporate outdoor engagement as part of state policy efforts.

  • Surfrider Foundation is running a national campaign to engage coastal recreation users to act on climate change. Each year, 180 million people visit U.S. beaches to swim, surf, sail, view wildlife, or just walk the sandy shoreline. These treasured resources are under siege from the impacts of climate change. Surfrider engages its network of passionate, dedicated coastal users to demand bold action from federal, state, and local leaders on climate change.

  • The Trust for Public Land’s Re-greening America’s Cities with the Urban Drawdown Initiative. This partnership among the Trust for Public Land, Urban Drawdown Initiative, and leading U.S. cities aims to catalyze adoption of community-based, natural climate solutions as part of each city’s climate response. The goal is to demonstrate that urban landscapes can be transformed into regenerative carbon sinks and that ambitious re-greening can deliver significant health, equity, and economic benefits to people and communities nationwide. The project delivered carbon accounting tools to each community, allowing them to develop data-driven carbon management plans, laying a path to apply nature-based practices to sequester carbon while simultaneously advancing economic development in underinvested neighborhoods.

REI Co-op and REI Member Advocacy

For decades, REI Co-op has used our voice to advocate for issues that matter to life outside. Alongside a diverse network of organizations and industry partners, we advocate at local, state, and national levels for policies that address the climate crisis and advance a more just and inclusive outdoors.

Direct Advocacy

In the last year, some of our more significant initiatives included:

  • New Mexico: For far too many New Mexicans, quality time outside is out of reach due to systemic barriers that prevent people—disproportionately communities of color and local tribal communities—from enjoying the outdoors. Fortunately, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and a group of bipartisan state leaders—Sen. Steven Neville (R) and Sen. Peter Wirth (D) and Rep. Nathan Small (D)—championed a historic proposal to safeguard access to nature for every New Mexico resident. The Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund would establish a permanent fund to preserve New Mexico’s lands and waters and ensure that everyone can enjoy the outdoors as a basic human right.

  • E-bike Incentives: Working closely with our partners at People for Bikes, we have helped champion legislation at the local, state, and federal level to create programs that provide incentives to help communities afford electric bicycles. At the time of publication, there are more than 20 e-bike incentive programs proposed or adopted in states across the country.

  • Outdoors For All Act: 100 million Americans live without a quality park within a 10-minute walk from home. REI worked with coalition partners like the Trust for Public Lands to help ensure the Outdoors for All Act was introduced by supporting 8,000 REI employees and members in their efforts to contact Congress. This bill would permanently secure funding for greenspaces in underserved communities. Learn more and take action.

  • Supporting the LGBTQ+ Community: Nearly two out of three LGBTQ+ individuals living in the U.S. report experiencing discrimination and harassment in their lives. This past year, REI continued its work to secure and defend the rights of our LGBTQ+ employees and members. In partnership with the Human Rights Campaign, we advocated for the successful passage of the Respect for Marriage Act and rallied our members and employees to support the Equality Act, which would finally secure LGBTQ+ people’s rights in existing civil rights laws.

The REI Cooperative Action Network

In 2021, we launched the REI Cooperative Action Network to make it easy for our 16,000 employees and more than 21 million members to join us in advocating for the outdoors. The network harnesses the immense power of our co-op community to win policies that tackle the climate crisis and create a more just and equitable outdoors. The network provides easy-to-use tools to contact decision-makers, critical information about priority issues, and civic engagement resources.

In 2022, the network continued to grow by:

  • Engaging an additional 78,000 REI Co-op Members, employees, and customers on issues.
  • Sending more than 250,000 messages to decision-makers at both the federal and state level.
  • Launching Your Vote Can’t Wait to engage our member and employee community in the 2022 midterm elections. Additionally, we delayed opening our stores on Election Day and provided all employees with paid time to vote or volunteer.
  • Helping pass the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund in the state of New Mexico.

The voice of the outdoor community has great potential to be very powerful. Through our direct advocacy, advocacy alongside partners, and the growth of the Cooperative Action Network, we aim to organize and amplify our collective voice for greater impact.

The REI Cooperative Action Fund

Recognizing that our own community investments can only go so far, REI launched a publicly supported charity in 2021. As a separate, 501(c)(3) organization, the REI Cooperative Action Fund aims to harness the collective power of the co-op's more than 23 million members to create a more equitable outdoors. For the first time in the co-op’s 85-year history, this new fund allows co-op members, employees, and the public to contribute and provide financial support to an even broader network of nonprofit organizations building a more equitable outdoors.

The fund operates on a July to June fiscal year. It issued its inaugural annual report in late 2022 covering its first two fiscal years. During that time, the fund donated almost $2.9 million in unrestricted funds to 31 nonprofits aligned with its mission. As more people participate and contribute, the fund will scale this investment. More information about the REI Cooperative Action Fund—including a list of grantees—can be found at www.REIFund.org.

REI Co-op is proud to be the founder and lead donor of the fund. REI’s own contributions to the fund ensure that 100% of contributions from the general public are donated to its grantees. In the fund’s founding fiscal years, the co-op’s total support for the charity’s operations and grantmaking amounted to more than $4.4 million.