REI Elevates Sustainability Standards to Cover Entire Supply Chain

REI, sustainability, supply chain, responsible sourcing, Leon Kaye, retailREI has long been a sustainability champion, from encouraging consumers to skip Black Friday, to its sponsorship of outdoor events, to the expansion of its popular “garage sales” of gently used or worn goods from solely its brick-and-mortar locations to online.

Yesterday, the popular outdoor apparel and gear retailer announced that it would roll out rigorous sustainability standards across its supply chain. The more than 1,000 brands that can be currently found on REI’s stores or its web site, insists the co-op, will “make it easier for millions of outdoor enthusiasts to choose more sustainable products.”

These new standards outline REI’s expectations for how apparel and gear manufacturers should adhere to the company’s desired level of environmental, social and animal welfare impacts – based upon what the company says it has done over the past several years with its own suite of branded products.

According to REI, these standards were shaped by feedback from dozens of partner brands, from small firms to global apparel giants, which together manufacture the varied product lines found in the company’s stores. Years of participation with the Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group and other sustainability forums also were attributed to helping the company frame this 12-page document. The company claims these updated standards are feasible, focus on the most pressing environmental and social challenges and are reflective of the outdoor gear industry’s best practices.

Standards of which REI’s suppliers now need to be aware include fair trade certifications, the Leather Working Group, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and animal welfare guidelines including those that cover responsibly-sourced wool and down.

“We work with more than 1,000 brands, both large and small. Some, like prAna and Patagonia, are on the leading edge in integrating sustainability into their products and supply chains. Others may have a keen interest in sustainability but lack the resources to fully implement a program,” says Matthew Thurston, REI’s director of sustainability in a public statement. “We’re in a unique position to unite our brand partners around a common goal, by sharing best practices and resources that we’ve learned from both our own work and that of the brands we work with.”

Based on recent sales, REI is bullish that this accelerated commitment to sustainability can help the company perform strongly at all levels. The company also announced yesterday it reaped over $2.6 billion in sales during 2017, added 1 million more new members and that 70 percent of its profits went back into “community” – defined as the support of employees’ retirement programs, supporting outdoor-oriented nonprofits, work on outdoor trails for which the company funded – as well as the return of annual dividends to what is now as many as 17 million members who shop at its 151 stores across 36 U.S. states.

Image credit: REI

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Leon Kaye

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He is currently Executive Editor of 3p, and is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media. His previous work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). He's traveled worldwide and has lived in Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

One response

  1. If I read this correctly, 1000 suppliers could have 1000 different RSLs (other than the few specific chemicals listed) and they only must meet legal requirements? And the only pollution restrictions outlined are just legal requirements? It is a start, but a soft start with lots of wiggle room for REI.

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