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3 Ways REI Is Galvanizing Its Partners and Customers Into Environmental and Social Action

In tandem with the release of its annual financial results, REI has revealed plans to further engage members this year in its impact work for climate change and racial equity.

The co-op today launched Cooperative Action, a platform focused on getting its 20 million-member, 15,000-employee community to support its ongoing environmental and social initiatives. It has invited workers and customers to participate in a new grassroots advocacy network — whether via writing to a member of Congress, signing a petition or submitting a public comment — in an effort to address issues surrounding the outdoors.

REI has also asked its co-op members to shop used gear, which keeps products out of landfills, as part of its broader commitment to sustainability. According to the Seattle-based company, every used item purchased through stores or on its website represents at least a 50% reduction in carbon emissions on average compared to buying a new item. Over the past year, it reported doubling the sales of used merchandise online, and the retailer launched a member trade-in program to allow shoppers to buy and share gently used outdoor items.

What’s more, REI shared that it updated its Product Impact Standards, which include expectations for how the co-op and its 1,000-plus vendor partners are addressing carbon reduction, inclusive marketing practices and cultural designs in their offerings. As part of those standards, all of its namesake products are now “certified climate neutral.” (It also carries products from more than 30 other “certified climate neutral” brands.)

“As a community united by our shared love for life outdoors, together we can drive the progress we need to make towards a more sustainable and equitable future for our planet,” president and CEO Eric Artz said in a statement.

Along with the announcement, REI shared that its revenues dropped nearly 12% to $2.75 billion last year amid challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The co-op previously reported that it ended 2020 “without making a profit” and even sold its Washington headquarters to Facebook as office work largely went remote. It also rolled out new offerings such as virtual outfitting and curbside pickup.

“We took the long view and continued to put our people first, quickly pivoting to find new ways of serving our customers and community,” Artz added. “That approach turned out to be the right thing for our people and for our business and allowed us to enter 2021 not just in a position of financial strength, but proud of who we were when the times were least certain.”

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