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REI’s Annual Stewardship Report: Recycling Versus Carbon Neutrality?

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment


The 2008 stewardship report of Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) proves that recycling and carbon-neutrality don’t necessarily go hand in hand – and that growing businesses may face additional challenges in becoming or remaining sustainable. The report indicates that while REI is on track for meeting its zero-waste-to-landfill goal by 2020, it also fell short of its greenhouse gas goals last year, with emissions rising by 11 percent.

According to Environmental Leader, REI recycled nearly 85 percent of its waste last year – a substantial figure, particularly given the retail cooperative’s expansion. (In 2008, REI opened nine new stores, including a 525,000-square-foot distribution center in Pennsylvania that significantly increased the company’s total energy usage.) REI also seeks to purchase sustainably, design green buildings, and provide eco-sensitive products.

Despite these steps, however, REI’s growth appears to have increased its carbon footprint. Although REI took immediate energy-related steps to reduce that footprint (for example, it equipped 11 stores with solar panels and powered 24 stores with solar power through contracts with local solar utilities), REI’s carbon emissions grew from 104,000 tons in 2007 to 115,000 tons in 2008.

While the figures may be disheartening, I believe efforts like REI’s to operate sustainably should be commended and continued. From a retaining-conscious-consumers standpoint, in the developing world of sustainable business, bumps in the road like these will likely be common and surmountable.

What do you think?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Sundiver2000 Rob Bryan

    I think we should commend them for the efforts and ask them about the growth. How much more growth do they seek and to what purpose? What is the right size for REI? Can they attain sustainable operations at that size? Or are they going to just continue striving to maximize member returns infinitely?
    A read through of the financial info- Members’ (customers really) ROI (on purchases) is capped at 10%. It looks like a pretty socially responsible company. Except that the growth is taking them the wrong way. I think they should reduce dividends, exec comp, and charitable giving and focus that money on sustainability.