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REI Says New Standards Help ‘Build a Better Future’

REI doubled down on its efforts to fight climate change and promote equity Wednesday.

The outdoor retailer launched its REI Product Sustainability Standards in April 2018, outlining expectations for its more than 1,000 brand partners, focusing on how they manage environmental, social and animal welfare concerns.

More than two-and-a-half years later, the co-op rolled out several new updates to this framework—since renamed the REI Product Impact Standards—including new guidelines regarding carbon footprint reduction, sustainability certification and inclusive marketing practices.

“The products we carry represent our values and one of our greatest opportunities to support better ways of doing business in our industry,” Chris Speyer, REI’s vice president of product, said in a statement. “We want our members and customers to shop with confidence, knowing that the products they purchase at REI are helping build a better future for the people and places they love.”

Having announced in September it would complete a 14-year commitment to become carbon neutral in its operation this year, REI said it expects all brand partners to create an action plan by the end of 2021 for measuring their annual carbon footprint and working to reduce emissions embedded in products. The co-op itself currently plans to more than halve its carbon footprint by 2030.

The outdoor retailer also expanded the list of third-party certifications it encourages brands to utilize and said it would actively seek products that incorporate these preferred attributes. REI set itself a target that 100 percent of products on its shelves contain a preferred attribute by 2030. More than 3,500 products available on its shelves and website today contain a preferred attribute, it said.

By the end of 2021, the company expects brand partners to establish guidelines for marketing assets, photo casting and photography practices to ensure diverse representation across race, age, gender identity and expression, body size and disability. Brands must also ensure they are not using language that negatively impacts underrepresented groups to describe a product, collection, color or design.

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To ensure diverse artists, designers and their communities of origin receive proper credit and compensation for their work, REI also expects brands to implement strategies to prevent plagiarism, theft and inappropriate use of designs, patterns and names that are culturally meaningful to and originated from Native, Indigenous or other communities underrepresented in the outdoor industry.

REI said it worked with partner brands of various sizes and product categories and more than a dozen inclusion and sustainability partners to shape the new guidelines and ensure they are feasible and impactful.

“Caring for our fellow humans and the places we live and play in has been a priority of Osprey’s since day one,” Mark Galbraith, vice president of product at Osprey, said in a statement. “Our responsibility to examine what, how and why we make the things we do means that we are fully committed to evolving our process. By providing a comprehensive framework for base level brand expectations and aspirational preferred attributes, REI’s sustainability standards have encouraged us, and others who are just as dedicated to elevating sustainability, to step up our efforts.”

REI is one just one of many companies in recent months to lay out its plans to address critical social and environmental issues.

Yoox Net-a-Porter Group published its 10-year sustainability plan last month, inspired by the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. And in October, Lululemon Athletica debuted its first-ever “Impact Agenda,” a 12-point framework outlining numerous short- and long-term goals on full gender and race pay equity and ensuring 100 percent of its products include sustainable materials and end-of-use solutions.