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As REI Co-op prepares to #OptOutside for fifth year, CEO says it’s not enough

October 23, 2019
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REI employees participate in trail clean up in Bend, Oregon. Courtesy of REI.
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REI employees participate in trail clean up in Bend, Oregon. Courtesy of REI.

SEATTLE, Oct. 23, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- For the fifth time this Black Friday, REI Co-op will close all its stores, process no online payments and pay all 13,000 employees to #OptOutside with friends and family. But this year, under the leadership of a new CEO and facing a global environmental crisis, the co-op is going a step further: asking its 13,000 employees and 18 million members to join in the fight for life outdoors – and life on this planet.

The co-op is asking members and employees to “opt to act” – joining a nationwide clean-up effort this November, leaving the outdoors better than they found it when they #OptOutside on Black Friday and signing up for an employee-sourced, 52-week action plan to take small steps throughout the year to reduce their environmental footprint.

At the same time, REI is stepping up its own fight for life outdoors – starting with rethinking its core business model in favor of more mindful consumption, tackling waste and pledging to eliminate unnecessary packaging in the outdoor industry – beginning with poly bags (the clear plastic bags used to protect apparel).

“My job is to steward the co-op, and the outdoors, on your behalf — and on behalf of the generations who follow us. Today, that future is at risk,” REI CEO Eric Artz wrote in a letter to co-op members this week. “We are in the throes of an environmental crisis that threatens not only the next 81 years of the co-op, but the incredible outdoor places that we love.”

The co-op first launched #OptOutside in 2015, inviting employees and members to look at the Black Friday in a new light. Five years later, a single moment – the choice to close every REI store on the biggest shopping day of the year, pay employees to spend the day outdoors with friends and family and encourage Americans to think more deliberately about their consumption habits – has grown into a movement. But in 2019, Artz says that’s no longer enough.

“As a single company, our impact is limited, but as a community, we can drive change that powers meaningful action beyond our walls,” Artz wrote. “As a co-op, we know that many people taking many small steps together can add up to big changes. Collective intention will drive collective impact.”

To power that change, the co-op is committing to a future based around a circular economy, working toward zero-waste operations and challenging the outdoor industry to eliminate unnecessary packaging. Read more about these commitments, as well as a letter from Artz here.

REI has actively pushed itself to raise the bar on sustainability for decades, through efforts like sourcing 100 percent green energy for all operations, pursuing zero-waste operations, and pushing the outdoor industry to dramatically raise the bar on product sustainability through first-of-their-kind product sustainability standards. But a single company can only do so much. That’s why the co-op is also inviting its 18 million members, more than 13,000 employees, and the broader retail industry to take up the fight.

“At REI, our purpose is clear – to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors, for all. We believe that if we get millions of people to love the outdoors, they will leave it better than they found it,” says Artz. “Because when the next generation asks us what we did when the outdoors and the world needed us most, I want to be able to say, “we did our best.”

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About the REI Co-op
REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of more than 18 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 157 stores in 37 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.com, REI Outlet or the free REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. Adventurers can take the trip of a lifetime with REI’s active adventure travel company, a global leader that runs more than 250 itineraries across all continents. In every community where REI has a presence, professionally trained instructors share their expertise by hosting beginner-to advanced-level classes and workshops about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.

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SOURCE REI Co-op