Enjoying the outdoors should be encouraged, especially in this age of video games, sedentary jobs, and social networking. But as with any human activity, braving the outdoors has its environmental impacts, whether its from the purchase of high-tech clothing made from synthetic materials (and its shipment), or of course, traveling to get to one’s favorite destination.
One company that has done much to promote outdoor recreation and adventure travel is REI. The company has talked the talk . . . and shall we say hiked the hike. While it has achieved impressive growth in a difficult economy the last few years, REI has also made huge strides on the environmental and social front. Monday’s release of its 2009 Stewardship Report, its fourth, focuses on details, not platitudes.
Smart growth is REI’s mantra. The company has continued to increase the amount of real estate it owns and leases since 2006, yet has decreased annual carbon emissions by about 10% in 2009. What is especially encouraging is that last year, REI opened its second distribution center. Despite that additional 525,000 square feet of added space—and all the transportation that darts in and out of the facility in Bedford, PA—REI has a smaller carbon impact than it did in 2007. Overall, during the last three years, business grew 23%, while reducing its over climate impact by almost the same number: 22.8%.
REI is focused on other large issues, too, including:
- Waste Diversion: the company, which of course sells many products encased in all forms of packaging, has a goal of going zero-waste by 2020. Such incremental steps are its 95% recycling rates at its distribution centers, and an 82% rate across its retail locations.
- Paper: Now more than 38% of REI’s paper is FSC-certified paper, and has boosted the post consumer content of much of its packaging filler to 75% to 100%. Still, a whopping 62% of its paper consumption is from direct mail and catalogs, and admits it could do a better job improving the source of its paper throughout its supply chain—a challenge faced by many of its competitors as well.
- Green Building: REI has six LEED buildings, five of which are certified as Gold. The company has also made significant investments in solar, and its Round Rock, TX, location serves as a green building model for current and future stores.
Other issues in REI’s crosshairs include corporate travel, which has shrunk over the years, and reducing the impact of product transportation. Both have declined mostly because of economic factors.
Overall, REI’s stewardship report is detailed, provides the necessary data, and is transparent about where it falls short. Of course, some data cannot be quantified, such as the firm’s contribution to the appreciation of the outdoors. But as for the numbers REI has crunched, its customers and stakeholders can rest assured that they are purchasing items from a company that strives hard to protect the environment . . . that its products help contribute to the appreciation of the outdoors.