Introduction

The gear we bring to our members presents one of our greatest platforms for advancing sustainable business practices. In each stage of its life, a product interacts with the surrounding environment and the local community. Addressing the sustainability of the products we sell presents both a responsibility and an opportunity for REI because we work with over 1,000 outdoor companies every day.

The approach we take to product sustainability reflects the values of the REI community. We're committed to ensuring that our products are made in a manner that respects workers and the environment. It begins with a safe, fair and nondiscriminatory working environment for both our own employees and those manufacturing our products.

We also seek to minimize the impact of our products on the natural environment. Our first step: to objectively measure our products' footprint. Where are the biggest areas of impact, whether immediately visible or deep in the supply chain? Where can we improve the most? This is an enormously complex challenge, and we're not alone in tackling it. We actively collaborate with other retailers and manufacturers to create common tools and solutions.

We're proud of the products we sell under our own name. REI Co-op and Co-op Cycles products are an embodiment of the co-op's values. We're also fortunate to retail the leading outdoor brands. While we don't oversee their supply chains, we influence responsible choices through education, engagement and collaboration—and by holding the brands we sell to high standards, just as we do for ourselves. You can read more about how we collaborate with leading outdoor brands in the Engaging our Brand Partners section.


Industry Partnerships

REI is deeply committed to collaborating on sustainability solutions. We like to say that sustainability is a team sport. Individual organizations innovate new solutions, and it's through partnerships that those benefits can be applied broadly.

Collaboration is also critical for harmonizing how we measure social and environmental impacts. This is essential to creating common understandings about what's important and how we solve challenges.

In addition to our own brands, REI Co-op and Co-op Cycles, we sell over 1,000 outdoor brands. Many of the products from these brands overlap in some way, whether through shared supply chains, how they're used in the field, or what pathways exist for eventually recycling the materials.In addition to our own brands, REI Co-op and Co-op Cycles, we sell more than 1,000 outdoor brands. We've learned that the most effective approach for elevating product sustainability is to connect with like-minded organizations to influence this ecosystem for the benefit of our membership and the planet. We are active in industry partnerships and we challenge ourselves by regularly asking hard questions, such as:

  • How does the outdoor industry convene to address our most important sustainability challenges?

    REI's approach: The Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group
    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, now known as the Higg Index. Efforts driven by the Sustainability Working Group include social responsibility, material traceability, chemicals management and more. 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.

  • How do the apparel and footwear industries establish a globally harmonized methodology for measuring supply chain sustainability?

    REI's approach: The Sustainable Apparel Coalition
    REI was an early 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. By some estimates, the SAC now includes 40% of the apparel value in the world. 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 driving its adoption across our leading brand partners.

  • What can we do to evolve the dialog between brands and manufacturers to benefit people working in the supply chain?

    REI's approach: The Social Labour Convergence Project
    Our industry is spending vast amounts of resources on social compliance audits, which are often duplicative and not necessarily the best tool for creating improvements. To meaningfully improve labor conditions, we must change the way we work. The Social Labour Convergence Project has convened over 160 signatories representing a diverse group of brands, manufacturers and labor rights groups. As one of the first signatories, REI plays an active role in developing an industry-wide protocol and verification process to objectively collect social and labor data, identify opportunities for improvement, and track progress for the people behind our products.

  • Where do product design teams find guidance and certifications for sustainable materials?

    REI's approach: Textile Exchange
    This nonprofit organization was founded to inspire and equip people to accelerate 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.

  • How can factories improve their global competitiveness through stronger workforce relationships?

    REI's approach: International Labour Organization Better Work Programme
    The Better Work Programme is a unique partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation to improve labor standards and competitiveness in global supply chains. The ILO Better Work staff partner with factories to implement best practices in labor management. Their model ensures an ongoing, coordinated dialogue between factory employees and owners. REI strongly encourages participation for qualifying factories that create the REI Co-op products. We also partner with the ILO team to continuously strengthen the collaborative approach to ensure worker well-being.

  • How do we support good wages for factory workers?

    REI's approach: Fair Trade USA
    A nonprofit that is well known for its work in agriculture, Fair Trade USA recently expanded to include apparel products. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies and suppliers to guarantee that workers producing Fair Trade Certified™ goods are paid fair wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and receive community development funds to empower their communities. A collection of REI Co-op products are certified to the Fair Trade Certified factory standard, and we are proud to carry certified products from other leading brand partners.

  • Where can brands collaborate in managing supply chain sustainability data?

    REI's approach: Fair Factories Clearinghouse
    This nonprofit was launched in 2004 with support from the U.S. Department of State to create sustainable, cost-effective monitoring systems for workplaces around the world. At the time, there was no comprehensive industry tool for managing or sharing labor audit information. REI uses the Fair Factories Clearinghouse (FFC) database as our primary system for maintaining reliable information on the REI Co-op brand supply chain, including factory audits, remediation plans and multibrand collaborations with shared suppliers. We contribute to the technical advisory group to continuously strengthen the FFC platform.

  • How do we reduce the environmental impact of material manufacturing and minimize hazardous chemicals?

    REI's answer: bluesign®
    We believe that bluesign® is the gold standard in sustainable chemistry for textile manufacturing. In 2008, REI became one of the first North American brands to become a formal partner to this Swiss-based organization. The bluesign® system addresses the root cause of the textile industry's environmental impact by helping eliminate harmful chemical substances before they enter the manufacturing process. The system also assists suppliers in managing energy consumption, water consumption, air emissions, water emissions, and worker health and safety.

  • Where can customers find consistent, accurate guidance for recycling product packaging?

    REI's answer: GreenBlue's How2Recycle Label™
    How2Recycle is a standardized labeling system that clearly communicates recycling instructions. It involves a coalition of forward-thinking brands that want their packaging to be recycled and are empowering consumers through smart labels. REI was one of the first brands to adopt the How2Recycle Label for our REI Co-op and Co-op Cycles product packaging. We encourage other brands and retailers to join us in this commitment.

Engaging Our Brand Partners

REI has extensive experience working with outdoor apparel, gear and bicycle manufacturers. The REI Factory Code of Conduct was established in 1993 to guide our partnerships with manufacturers for REI products. The standards outlined in the code are based on International Labour Organization principles and internationally accepted fair labor practices. When REI standards differ from local regulations, suppliers are required to meet the higher standard.

In 2018, we took another step in helping our partner brands create more sustainable product. REI launched Product Sustainability Standards, which apply to all brands and products sold at REI. The standards provide clear expectations of brand partners, encourage them to integrate leading sustainability features into products, and provide a platform from which REI can offer support and guidance. This model enables us to greatly expand our positive impact.

The Higg Index

The Higg Index is a suite of sustainability tools developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). It provides outdoor gear manufacturers with a standardized platform for understanding product sustainability, particularly apparel and footwear.

Each of the Higg Index tools—called “modules”—is used to assess aspects of product supply chains. The modules provide different lenses for understanding the effects of our business and for setting improvement targets. For example, the environmental modules are based on leading life-cycle thinking and address the environmental impact of raw materials, product manufacturing, packaging, transportation, use and end of life. The social/labor modules were built on the best practices outlined by leading nonprofit organizations with expertise in improving factory working conditions, including the Fair Labor Association, Social Accountability International and the Global Social Compliance Programme.

REI played a founding role when this work began under the auspices of the Outdoor Industry Association. We were then one of the early members of the SAC, an organization that brought global scale to this endeavor. The SAC now includes more than 100 companies in the apparel and footwear industries that have committed to having a positive impact on the people, environment and communities associated with manufacturing their products.

As the Higg Index has grown, so too has our use of the modules. What started as an initiative within the REI Co-op brand is now expanding to the other brands retailed at REI. We are using the Higg Index's Brand Environment Module with our strategic brands in apparel and footwear. We will continuously expand the adoption of these tools across our product portfolio, with the goal of operating more efficiently and with less impact on the planet.

Gear That Lasts

REI was founded to pursue high-quality gear for people who build their lives around the outdoors. Today, that commitment remains core to the co-op. We seek to provide our members with great gear that stands the test of time.

Maximizing a product's life is one of the best ways to reduce environmental impact. It also improves outdoor experiences and reduces financial costs. That's a win-win-win in our book.

The co-op provides a number of services to extend the life of our products. Some of these are long-running programs that are core to our role as a co-op. Others are relatively new services that we are piloting and aim to expand.

  • Shop services
    REI is a leading source for expert outdoor knowledge you can trust. We strive to provide information to learn new skills, choose great gear, prep for your trips and have amazing adventures. We have expanded on our extensive library of gear care and repair guidance to help maximize the lifetime of our high-quality products and minimize environmental impacts. We how have over 65 articles and videos, from how to repair a tent to replacing your bike chainrings.

  • Expert Advice articles and videos
    Our gear rentals in select stores give members and customers an affordable way to try out a new activity or use a pay-as-you-play model whenever they get the urge to go outside. By making rentals available where there is demand, we give people an affordable way to try out the gear they need for hiking, backpacking, camping, paddling, skiing, snowshoeing and mountaineering—while minimizing financial cost and environmental impact.

  • Rentals
    Our gear rentals in select stores give members and customers an affordable way to try out a new activity or use a pay-as-you-play model whenever they get the urge to go outside. By making rentals available where there is demand, we give people an affordable way to try out the gear they need for hiking, backpacking, camping, paddling, skiing, snowshoeing and mountaineering—while minimizing financial cost and environmental impact.

  • Garage Sales and Used Gear Beta
    Outdoor gear can be expensive, and sometimes what you buy might not work out as you had hoped. Through our satisfaction guarantee, we take that product back and, via our now-famous Garage Sales and new online Used Gear Beta, ensure that lightly used returned products stay out of landfills and continue to deliver value to other members. While Garage Sales are one-day events at the store, Used Gear Beta, launched in 2017, provides an always on source to access handpicked and inspected top quality used gear and apparel. Each year, REI members score great deals on nearly 1 million pieces of gently used gear through Garage Sales and Used Gear Beta.


REI Co-op and Co-op Cycles

Sustainable Materials

REI is committed to sourcing more sustainable materials. We align our business practices with our stakeholders' expectations and industry best practices.

It's not an easy task. We create lots of complex products and use around 300 fabrics and 800 components each year. These supply chains are often intricate and dynamic in nature.

We use our influence to drive positive impact across the industry. In supply chain matters, this means continuous improvement toward a desired end goal. As REI is only one part in a large supply chain ecosystem, we also believe in using collaboration to increase visibility and more sustainable materials.

  • Cotton
    We seek cotton grown using sustainable farming practices. The majority of our cotton is organically grown, and we continuously explore opportunities to progress toward a target of 100%.

  • Lyocell and modal
    Protecting our forests is important to REI and our members. For cellulosic fibers made from trees, such as lyocell and modal, we work only with suppliers that formally commit to protecting ancient or endangered forests and supporting long-term forest conservation.

  • Down and feathers
    We source down from birds that are responsibly raised and cared for. This means enabling them to live healthy lives, express innate behaviors, and live free from pain, fear or distress. To honor this commitment, we have adopted the Responsible Down Standard for 100% of our down and feathers.

  • Wool
    We are committed to using wool that comes from sheep that have not been mulesed, a painful practice used to ward off parasites. In addition, we support the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), an emerging certification that will provide additional assurance that farmers follow best practices for responsible animal husbandry and sustainable land management. REI is adopting the RWS as it becomes commercially available.

  • Cow leather
    We do not endorse cattle farming in the Amazon Biome, a region undergoing rapid deforestation. REI Co-op does not source full-leather hides. Should we ever do so, we will track country of origin and pursue certification by the Leather Working Group to ensure that environmental impacts are managed effectively.

  • Materials we don't use
    REI Co-op does not use certain materials because of animal welfare concerns, environmental harm, the existence of safer alternatives, or the absence of traceability mechanisms. This includes materials like angora, bamboo rayon, exotic leathers and fur. We have also eliminated PVC from all of our apparel and camping products.

Packaging

Effective packaging is critical for safely transporting products. The perfect packaging design finds the optimal balance of product protection, sustainable materials and minimal waste.

We're proud of our role in aligning the broader packaging industry around the How2Recycle Label. It is a voluntary, standardized labeling system that clearly communicates instructions to consumers on how to recycle packaging.

The vast majority of the primary packaging for our products is now labeled with the How2Recycle guidance. Our paperboard is either 100% FSC-certified or 100% certified post-consumer waste—or both. Additionally, nearly all packaging is made from widely recyclable materials and constructed to be easily recycled.

When possible, we seek ways to eliminate packaging altogether. We have largely eliminated the use of individual polyethylene plastic bags - commonly referred to as “polybags” – by switching to using a single “master” bag per large shipping box from the factory to REI’s distribution centers . To increase packing efficiency and reduce packaging waste, we are implementing the “roll-pack” or “sushi-roll” packaging method with appropriate apparel styles. Products are loosely rolled and secured with a small piece of FSC certified, undyed paper.

With the assistance of the Outdoor Industry Association and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, REI also has sustainable packaging guidelines to encourage and educate our vendors. These guidelines support REI Co-op and Co-op Cycles, the brands we sell within our stores, and the greater outdoor and cycling industries.

Sustainable Chemistry

REI works closely with peer brands, the Outdoor Industry Association, and leading academic institutes to research, understand, reduce and eliminate chemicals of concern used in the manufacture of our products.

Our approach begins with input-stream management, which ensures that chemicals are selected with due diligence before entering the manufacturing process. Our program also supports implementation of chemical management best practices for safe chemical storage, handling, use and treatment of waste.

The following key tools serve as the building blocks for our Sustainable Chemistry Program:

  • bluesign® is the world's leading system for managing the impacts of textile manufacturing. Rather than just focusing on testing finished items, the bluesign® standard is a textile certification system that works to prevent chemicals of concern from entering materials at each step of the manufacturing process.
  • The REI Restricted Substances List (RSL) is based on the bluesign® system and meets or exceeds global regulatory requirements. We use the RSL as the basis for our materials chemical testing program.
  • In partnership with the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and leading outdoor brands, REI participated in creation of the OIA Chemicals Management Guide. This guide is a compilation of resources that supports the outdoor industry in aligning around a common set of chemicals management practices and helps our supplier partners adopt robust systems for managing chemicals used in production.

REI is voluntarily eliminating from our products certain potentially hazardous substances that may be found in outdoor performance products because safer, effective alternatives exist. In instances where alternatives that meet both our environmental and performance requirements do not exist, such as those outlined below, we proceed cautiously while working to identify and develop better options.

  • Antimicrobials and biocides
    The health and environmental impacts of many antimicrobial treatments are not thoroughly understood. We are selective in our application of these treatments. As of 2016, we select only bluesign®-certified antimicrobials to ensure thorough evaluation for toxicity and efficacy.

  • Flame retardant (FR) chemicals
    Certain classes of FR chemicals introduce potential hazards to human health and the environment. We carefully track the use of FR chemicals, use only where required to meet regulations, test materials to ensure compliance with REI's RSL, and constantly seek better alternatives.

  • Long-chain perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
    Concerns about the toxicity and environmental persistence of certain durable water repellents (DWR) is driving a transition in the industry. REI has committed to eliminating DWR treatments that contain long-chain PFAS from our supply chain. We have made significant progress in transitioning most DWR treatments to short-chain PFAS in both apparel and technical gear. This is a positive stepping stone while we introduce nonfluorinated alternatives, which we believe will eventually provide the best balance of performance and environmental stewardship.

  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
    REI restricts the use of PVC due to human and environmental health risks in manufacturing and use. We have eliminated PVC from all products except certain bicycle subcomponents, where alternatives are being studied for efficacy.

Fair Labor

We believe that everyone should have access to working conditions that are safe, fair and nondiscriminatory. Our goal is to extend REI's values in the supply chain by supporting the people behind our products and working with suppliers in achieving industry-leading practices.

Our Factory Partner List is publicly accessible and identifies the locations around the world where we source gear and apparel. Depending on the country, relying solely on local laws and enforcement may not be sufficient for meeting our expectations. For that reason, REI introduced its Factory Code of Conduct in 1993. The current code establishes standards of workplace conduct for the factories that manufacture products we sell.

To advance the principles outlined in the code, our sustainability and production teams collaborate on process alignment, supplier approval and audit remediation. REI is selective about our factories. We only work with capable, responsible partners. Additionally, each year we audit a percentage of the factories in our supply chain. Audit data and findings are uploaded to a shared industry database, the Fair Factories Clearinghouse. REI then works with suppliers to identify the root cause of each finding that doesn't align with our standards. We develop a corrective action plan and commit to specific completion dates. REI regularly consults with our suppliers throughout the process.

For information about our work to prevent human trafficking and forced labor in supply chains, we encourage you to review REI's disclosures for the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010.

The breadth of fair labor compliance cannot be accomplished solely by one brand. Accordingly, REI has developed partnerships with associations such as the Outdoor Industry Association, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Fair Factories Clearinghouse. As an active member in these organizations, we enhance, leverage and build trust with suppliers and brands and work together to address systemic causes of fair labor violations.

We also support innovative programs designed to empower workers. Examples include Fair Trade USA and the International Labour Organization Better Work Programme.