REI rolls out rigorous new sustainability standards for suppliers

REI Chief Executive Jerry Stritzke calls the sustainability standards “transformative” in the co-op’s 80-year-old history. (REI)

Article from The Seattle Times | Published April 8, 2018 at 11:00 am by Benjamin Romano

The consumer-owned co-op is also reporting a record $2.62 billion in 2017 sales.

REI’s standards are a new stake in the ground for an outdoor-equipment industry that has been trying, with mixed results, to match its environmental impact to the values espoused by many of its customers.

REI Chief Executive Jerry Stritzke calls the standards “maybe one of the most transformative things” the 80-year-old co-op has done — one he hopes will have a ripple effect beyond its own industry.

“At some point you get to a true tipping point where it’s expected by consumers,” he said.

Andrew Winston, an independent business strategist in New York who advises multinational companies on sustainability practices, said REI’s standards are uncommonly clear, specific and aggressive.

While other retailers also offer guidance to their suppliers on sustainability, it’s often used as a tiebreaker — a way to choose between two otherwise similar products. This represents a next level up, he said, with REI telling suppliers, “You won’t be sold in the store if you don’t meet certain criteria.”

REI’s standards include two tiers: a set of minimums that companies must meet to have their products considered by REI, called “brand expectations”; and a set of “preferred attributes,” such as more rigorous certifications, business practices and material choices “that REI has determined to be most relevant to our product offering and most effective in advancing sustainability.”

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