Contributor: Alex Adamczyk
Today, as consumers and businesses alike confront climate change, REI (Recreation Equipment Incorporated) operates as an industry leader, bringing knowledge and experience to Washington Business for Climate Action (WBCA) and fellow supporters. Given the company’s track record of stewardship and commitment to the outdoors, I wanted to learn more about its long-term sustainability focus, and how its environmental awareness contributes to WBCA’s overall mission.
“REI was founded by Mary and Lloyd Anderson 76 years ago and the values of the co–op still exist today,” noted Alex Thompson, the Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs at REI, as we spoke on a typically gray Seattle morning.
From his previous work at Edelman, Thompson brings a global perspective to an outdoor company integral to both the Washington State and national economies. After donating $4.6 million to local and national organizations in 2014 and promoting its new #OptOutside campaign, REI demonstrates a clear commitment to stewardship and sustainable practices.
Thompson underscored how REI made a “deliberate choice to talk about stewardship more broadly in communications and engagement work around sustainability” from the beginning – its founders embraced conservation back in 1938. This responsibility continues today, as REI’s stewardship is not a marketing campaign, but a reflection of its core values – “the DNA of REI as a co-op.”
“One of our responsibilities is to think longer range and to pass those values along from generation to generation,” reflected Alex. At the same time, a healthy business must grow and thrive. But REI continues to exhibit positive growth because, as Thompson stated, “(our) focus on stewardship is almost a cyclic relationship between the health of the organization and the amount of money, time and effort we can put into the outdoors that we all know and love.”
Sustainable practices and stewardship allow positive growth to define REI, but the co-op’s involvement in the outdoor community brings even more to the 250+ member strong WBCA community. REI creates and catalyzes outdoor experiences that provide the “awareness of what it takes to nurture and to invest in that incredibly important and valuable asset.”
For Thompson, REI’s vision is a continuation of the present values that embody positive development, growth, and outreach. These will be just as prominent in the future, since REI is focusing on its 100-year plan, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of America’s Park System.
“If REI were to have a positive societal impact in the next 100 years what would that look like?”
For REI, this long-term view is clear. The co–op’s values are present in its expansion plans and by acting “in concert with those values.” REI will continue to be a leader for responsible business and stewardship in both Washington and its local communities.