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Here’s Why REI Published New Sustainability Standards

REI Co-op is taking its commitment to sustainability to the next level and bringing its brand partners along with it.

As part of its plans to push its sustainability initiatives, the outdoor chain on Monday unveiled the REI Product Sustainability Standards, a set of guidelines covering each of the more than 1,000 brands sold at the co-op.

The standards outline the company’s expectations for its brand partners, focusing on how they manage environmental, social and animal welfare concerns, in coordination with REI’s ongoing sustainability efforts.

The launch comes as the co-op celebrates its 80th anniversary as one brand known for its quality outdoor gear and clothing. Now, with these new manufacturing policies, REI is not only reassuring customers that its goods will continue to deliver top-rate performance, the company is also informing shoppers that the goods sold at its stores are manufactured by responsible, environmentally sound businesses.

Some of the new guidelines, such as requiring brands to have a manufacturing code of conduct for supply chains—the social and environmental standards that are to be upheld at supply chains—and the animal welfare restriction that pertains to prohibiting brands from using animal fur and exotic leather, take effect immediately. Others, like the restrictions regarding the use of certain wool, have an 18-month transition period and the brands are expected to have them implemented by the roll out of their fall 2020 product lines.

“This effort to advance sustainability across an entire vendor base is among the most comprehensive in the U.S. retail industry,” Adam Siegel, senior vice president of research, innovation and sustainability for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said. “By going so broad with requirements for their suppliers and approaching this with such a spirit of collaboration, REI has not only moved their own operations forward, but they’ve raised the bar for the entire industry.”

REI is also introducing a list of preferred attributes that let shoppers use keywords like “organically grown cotton” and “recycled materials” to search for products, pushing them to brands and products that are using socially responsible and sustainable manufacturing practices.

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“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,” Matthew Thurston, REI director of sustainability, said. “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.”

Brands are pleased to partner with REI in its venture to preserve the environment and promote more responsible manufacturing practices.

“We are proud to be a leader in REI’s collaboration project around sustainability and product standards,” Rachel Lincoln, prAna director of sustainability, said. “Our individual goal is to advance the principles of sustainability in the global apparel industry, supporting the implementation of these standards is just a start in our partnership with REI.”

And leaders in the outdoors community are equally enthusiastic.

“Consumers increasingly expect that the retailers they buy from have done their homework in understanding the social and environmental practices of the brands they carry,” Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, said. “This move is an opportunity for both brands and retailers to understand and collaborate around ongoing challenges, as well as highlight areas where they’ve made significant progress.”

The same day it introduced the product standards, REI also published its annual Stewardship Report, in which it further highlighted its 80-year commitment to collective accountability and using its retail leadership position to champion social, environmental and community causes.