Outdoor outfitters REI recently released its impact report, showcasing its investment in inclusive outdoor communities as well as zero-waste ambitions.
Coming off $3.85 billion in revenue, REI made its largest single-year investment in employee compensation to date (inflation was also a factor). In 2022, REI put an additional $50 million toward pay raises for hourly employees and deployed another $92 million toward employee retirement and bonuses. Last year, REI launched its “REI Access Plan” offering medical coverage for every employee who needs it, regardless of hours. REI also created “The Way Forward,” a new workplace inclusion commitment.
Following in Patagonia’s footsteps, the outdoor retailer instilled a Black Friday store closure policy so employees can enjoy time outside instead of at the cash wrap.
At REI, workers boast high satisfaction rates, with more than 81 percent of employees reporting that their leaders take a “genuine interest” in their well-being, with 78 percent of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC)-identifying employees at REI reporting a sense of belonging.
Also in 2022, and for the first time in its 84-year history, REI revamped its co-op member rewards, adding free shipping, shop service discounts, used gear rentals, member collection and a $5 donation match to its REI Cooperative Action Fund for each new membership purchased. The co-op has distributed nearly $224 million in Co-op Member Rewards in this transformation. From 2021 to 2022, REI’s Cooperative Action Fund mobilized $2.9 million to more than 31 nonprofits.
“REI was founded in 1938 by 23 friends who shared the belief that a cooperative enabled a more rewarding outdoor life. That love for the outdoors continues to drive our interest to strengthen our connection with members,” said Vivienne Long, REI senior vice president, chief marketing officer, at the time. “Our relaunch is the beginning of a new chapter for the co-op and represents the first step of many toward a member experience overhaul that has community engagement at its core.”
REI also partnered with an array of nonprofits (investing some $6.9 million in 503(c) partners) to build a more inclusive outdoors, including Outdoor Afro Inc, Path Ahead Ventures, All Bodies on Bikes, Native Women Running and Trail Mixed Collective, among others.
For a decade, REI celebrated powering its operations with 100-percent renewable energy, and in March committed to powering all 181 stores with local energy sources. Per the company, REI is on track toward its goal to become the first national retailer to achieve zero waste by 2025, diverting 84 percent of its operational waste from landfills this past year, per the report. The company also received a 2022 FSC Leadership Award for supporting responsible forest management and forest conservation.
Given its already progressive worker co-op model (that now boasts 23 million lifetime co-op members) recent unionization efforts and disputes have become a media fixation. In the past two weeks, the National Labor Relations Board docketed three union election petitions for REI employees. Its regional offices are still investigating a dozen unfair labor practice charges filed against REI.
As WWD reported in the past when its SoHo store voted to unionize, REI has said unions are “not needed or beneficial” given its unique model.