The gear we design, develop and merchandise represents both our greatest impact on the climate and the planet, and our greatest opportunity for advancing sustainable business practices. In addition to pushing ourselves, our partners and the broader industry to advance responsible production and consumption, we seek to provide our members with great gear that stands the test of time.
As we work to minimize the impact of our products on the natural environment, our first step is to understand our biggest areas of impact. Are they immediately visible or deep in the supply chain? Where can we improve the most? Sustainability is a complex challenge, and we're not alone in tackling it. We actively collaborate with other retailers, brands and manufacturers to create common tools and solutions.
We're proud of the products we sell under our own name. REI Co-op brand products and Co-op Cycles are an embodiment of our values and an opportunity to help lead the industry in implementing more sustainable practices. We're also fortunate to retail other 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.
Engaging Brand Partners
REI is committed to collaborating on sustainability solutions. We can make a far bigger impact together than alone. Organizations innovate new solutions, and it's through partnerships that those benefits can be applied broadly. Collaboration is also critical for creating standards to measure social and environmental impacts. Together, we can create common understanding about what's important and how we solve challenges.
REI Product Impact Standards
REI's Product Impact Standards are designed to help our partner brands create more sustainable and inclusive products. These standards outline our expectations of all brands sold at REI regarding how they manage key environmental and social impacts associated with products. The standards also identify REI's "preferred attributes" - leading sustainability features that help reduce carbon emissions or support other positive outcomes. We encourage brand partners to use these attributes for their products. In 2020, we expanded the standards to include expectations for how REI and our partner brands are advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in their product offerings and marketing.
Each year, REI asks brands partners to share updates on their sustainability performance via an annual questionnaire. We use the data to track our collective progress, guide our assortment decisions and help us understand how we can best support brands in aligning with REI's standards. For example, of the brands we retailed in 2020 (measured by sales):
58% are engaging their manufacturing partners on sustainability practices;
65% are measuring their climate impacts and setting reduction targets;
73% are engaged in leading sustainability forums and initiatives; and
73% are using preferred sustainability attributes in products.
Finally, we monitor which products we assort utilize our preferred sustainability attributes. REI's merchants utilize this data to pursue our goal that, by 2030, 100% of the products we sell will have a preferred attribute so that every product supports a healthier, cleaner and more equitable planet.
The Higg Index
The Higg Index is a suite of sustainability tools developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). REI helped found the SAC, which now includes hundreds of companies that have committed to having a positive impact on the people, environment and communities associated with manufacturing their products.
The SAC provides brands and manufacturers with a standardized platform for understanding and managing product sustainability. Each of the Higg Index tools - called "modules" - is used to assess aspects of the product lifecycle, including raw materials, manufacturing, brand practices and product use. The modules provide different lenses for understanding the effects of our business and for setting improvement targets.
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. The tools provide a means of engaging strategic brand partners and suppliers for the REI Co-op brand. We assess and share our own sustainability practices and monitor that of our partners. In 2020, we began using the Higg Index Material Sustainability Index to assess the environmental impacts associated with the materials we use for our REI Co-op brand products. This enables us to make informed decisions and select materials that have a reduced impact on the climate and environment.
Looking ahead, REI will continue expanding the use of the Higg Index tools across our business and continuously improve our performance by reducing our impacts on the planet.
REI Co-op and Co-op Cycles
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 many complex products that utilize a variety of materials and components. 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, we work to increase transparency and use of more sustainable materials.
Recycled Materials: Recycled materials lessen our need to extract raw materials and typically have a reduced environmental footprint relative to their virgin counterparts. We seek to use certified recycled materials when they are available and meet the performance requirements of our products.
Cotton: We prioritize organically grown cotton because organic farmers follow best practices that promote ecological health. We offer a variety of products that contain organically grown cotton.
Lyocell and Modal: Protecting our forests is important to REI and our members. We prioritize products that come from responsibly managed forests. 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 virgin down and feathers.
Wool: We are committed to sourcing virgin wool from farms where sheep were humanely raised and cared for, and where land was responsibly managed. We prefer wool certified to the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), a certification that provides additional assurance that farmers follow best practices for animal husbandry and sustainable land management.
Leather: We do not endorse cattle farming in the Amazon biome, a region undergoing rapid deforestation. While REI Co-op does not source full-leather hides, when we do use leather, we prioritize suppliers rated by the Leather Working Group, which promotes responsible environmental stewardship practices in tanneries.
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 alpaca wool, angora, bamboo rayon, mohair, exotic leathers and fur. We have also eliminated PVC from all of our apparel and camping products.
REI works closely with peer brands, the Outdoor Industry Association and leading academic institutes to research, understand, reduce and eliminate chemicals of concern in the manufacturing 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 environmental and human health impacts of textile manufacturing. Rather than solely focusing on testing finished items, the bluesign® system eliminates or tightly controls hazardous chemicals at each step of the production process. The system also addresses energy efficiency, water use, worker health and safety, and air and water emissions throughout the supply chain.
The REI Restricted Substances List (RSL) is based on the bluesign® system and meets or exceeds global regulatory requirements. Chemical testing to the RSL requirements is used to help ensure products, particularly those containing non-bluesign® materials, are safe for our members.
In partnership with the Outdoor Industry Association and leading outdoor brands, REI participated in creation of the OIA Chemicals Management Guide & Training for Manufacturers. 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 throughout production.
REI is voluntarily eliminating from our products certain potentially hazardous substances that may be found in outdoor performance products where we believe safer, effective alternatives exist. In instances where alternatives are limited, such as those outlined below, we proceed cautiously while working to identify and develop better options.
Antimicrobials, Biocides and Insecticides: The human health and environmental impacts of many antimicrobials, biocides and insecticides are not thoroughly understood. For these reasons, we are selective in our application of these treatments. We select only bluesign®-certified antimicrobials to ensure thorough evaluations for toxicity and efficacy have been conducted.
Flame Retardant (FR) Chemicals: For many years, Flammability standards have driven the use of FR chemicals in camping tents. Some FR chemicals have been linked to undesirable human and environmental health effects. REI has partnered with our suppliers to identify and avoid certain flame retardants in favor of less hazardous alternatives. REI has also participated in the creation of a new test method for flammability and advocated for updated standards that would allow the elimination of FR chemicals while maintaining performance standards. Now, in our own REI Co-op brand products, we have begun to forego the use of FR chemicals where they are unnecessary to meet flammability requirements. We intend to expand this approach across our tent offerings in the coming years.
Durable Water Repellents (DWR): Concerns about the toxicity and environmental persistence of certain durable water repellents is driving a transition in the industry. As of 2019 product lines, REI has eliminated DWR treatments that contain long-chain PFAS from our supply chain. We use short-chain PFAS alternatives where viable alternatives do not yet exist, and we continue to explore non-fluorinated 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.
A growing body of research indicates that every time we wash our clothes, thousands of microscopic fibers are released into the wastewater and can build up in waterways. REI is working to better understand this issue and how we and the apparel and textiles industries can address it. To that end, REI and a handful of leading outdoor brands are supporting research led by Ocean Wise, a Canadian nonprofit focused on protecting the world's oceans. We will continue to monitor the latest research with the intention of better understanding how to design products in a way that reduces microfiber shedding.
The Circular Economy
Most traditional businesses that create and sell products use linear supply chain models that take, make, use and dispose of materials. The circular economy is a model that disrupts that process by extending the lifecycle of products through increased use and recapture of finite resources.
This way of doing business has far-reaching implications that are beginning to influence the outdoor industry. By investing in a circular economy, we can help reduce waste and increase efficiency in how we use our planet's resources. That's why REI is using this model to rethink its offerings and prioritize quality gear that can be used again and again.
The co-op provides several 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 focused on growing.
Garage Sales, Member Trade-In and Used Gear Online
Members can access high quality used outdoor gear and apparel through our famous Garage Sales in our retail stores, and through the used gear section of REI.com. We sell close to 1 million used items each year through these programs each year -which helps keep outdoor gear where it belongs - outside. Despite a challenging retail environment, the co-op's online recommerce business was up more than 100% in 2020, in part due to demand from younger customers who prioritize purchasing used gear, as opposed to new.
Used gear not only comes at a lower price point but is also one of the best ways for customers to reduce their carbon footprint. Purchasing a piece of use gear, on average, represents a 50% carbon savings. In 2020, we continued to expand our member trade-in program, where REI members can play a more active role in giving new life to their gently used outdoor gear by selling it back to the co-op. Currently, the co-op is offering up to 50% of the resale value for most items. In 2020, we brought our online used gear experience to life by testing an all-new retail format with a pilot of two standalone used gear pop-up stores in Manhattan Beach, California and Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
By combining these different recommerce offerings we are creating the largest marketplace for high quality used outdoor gear and apparel. This ensures that lightly used outdoor gear stays out of landfills and continues to deliver value to our members.
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. We offer everything from snowshoes and cross country skis to fully equipped camping and backpacking kits. As outdoor participation exploded in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were increasingly able to help facilitate more outdoor experiences by helping get customers the gear that they needed to get outside. This winter, we helped nearly 22,000 customers get outside on a pair of snowshoes - some for the very first time.
Expert Advice Articles and Videos
REI is the leading source for expert outdoor knowledge our members and customers can trust. We help people learn new skills, choose great gear, prepare for 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 now have over 70 articles and videos covering everything from repairing a tent to replacing bike chainrings.
Shop Services & Product Repairs
For some product repairs, it's better to have an expert fix it. REI offers in-house maintenance and repair services for skis, snowboards and bikes. We've also partnered with several third-party organizations to provide high-quality repair services for common product categories, including apparel, footwear and tent poles. Customers can find more information about how to get products repaired here.