REI, under new CEO Eric Artz, for the fifth consecutive year will close all of its stores on Black Friday (Nov. 29), process no online payments and pay all employees for the day. But this year, the national co-operative is asking its 13,000 staffers and 18 million members to go a step further for the outdoors and join a nationwide clean-up effort throughout November. The retailer has developed an employee-sourced, 52-week action plan that encourages employees to reduce their environmental footprint throughout the year.
From a corporate perspective, REI says it’s in the midst of rethinking its core business model in favor of more mindful consumption, tackling waste and pledging to eliminate unnecessary packaging in the outdoor industry—starting with the clear plastic (poly) bags used to protect apparel. This fall, the co-op invited 5,000 members to pilot a used gear buy-back program where those trading in gently used outdoor items for resale at REI.com/used can receive REI gift cards. By the end of 2021, REI will certify that its headquarters, all distribution centers and at least 10 stores as “True Zero Waste” facilities.
Meanwhile, five more U.S. states (ME, MI, NV, NM, VA) are promising to advance the principles contained in the Outdoor Recreation Industry Confluence Accords, which were developed in 2018 and focus on conservation and stewardship, education/workforce training, economic development, and public health and wellness. Outdoor recreation leaders from the five states committed to the Accords at the Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit last week, joining original members in Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming. There are now 16 states with offices of outdoor recreation or task forces created or under development, according to the National Governors Association Outdoor Recreation Learning Network. Outdoor recreation is 2.2 percent of the U.S. GDP, generating $778 billion in gross output and supporting 5.2 million jobs, The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported in September.