The North Face has revealed its Explore Fund Council, a group who will guide the brand’s $7 million in initial global funding to build equity in the outdoors and further reveal the benefits exploration.
Lena Waithe, the famed Emmy-winning screenwriter, producer and actor will lead the council alongside Jimmy Chin, a longtime The North Face ambassador and an Academy Award-winning director.
The eight-person council features educators, community organizers, athletes and more, including Latino Outdoors founder José Gonzalez.
“The crux of it is, do I believe that me being here can have value at an impact? Does my picture of how I think I can effect change in the space and the person who invited me align well? I said yes because relationships matter, and having worked with members of The North Face has given me the orientation in terms of where they want this to go,” Gonzalez told FN.
The remaining members of the council include wildlife ecologist Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant; cyclist and runner Hakim Tafari; art director and illustrator Shanée Benjamin; Gwich’in leader and advocate Jody Potts; Chris Dean, co-founder of nonprofit rock climbing gym Memphis Rox; and educator and lecturer Liz Kleinrock.
“We’re going to talk about systemic and historical oppression in the outdoors, and there’s a whole body of research behind that. And we can show what that looks like now in the conversations we can have through Jimmy and Lena. To me, that’s the exciting component,” Gonzalez said. “I think by bringing the joy, the excitement and the connectivity, we can come at this from a multifaceted perspective.”
Gonzalez explained what makes The North Face an ideal brand to lead the equity in the outdoors charge, which includes a company culture that cares about the cause, its size and reputation in the outdoor market, and the financial investment willing to make.
“Being able to say, ‘This is the amount we’re starting to have this type of impact,’ is very different than some of the work of others in this space is,” Gonzalez said. “$100,000 here, $200,000 there is significant, but The North Face saying we’re starting with millions says this is a statement of commitment.”
The group will address the inequities in access to the outdoors, the barriers to exploration some face more than others and celebrate all types of exploration. What’s more, The North Face said the council will work together on creating and enacting scalable solutions for equity impact.