• REI has outlined a series of new product sustainability standards.
  • The REI Product Sustainability Standards outline the co-op's expectations for how brands manage key environmental, social and animal welfare impacts.?
  • They build on work that REI has done over many years to advance sustainability within its own brands and apply to each of the more than 1,000 brands it sells.
The REI Product Sustainability Standards outline the co-op’s expectations for how brands manage key environmental, social and animal welfare impacts

The REI Product Sustainability Standards outline the co-op’s expectations for how brands manage key environmental, social and animal welfare impacts

US outdoor gear and apparel retailer REI has outlined new product sustainability standards that apply to each of the more than 1,000 brands it sells.

The move, which REI says marks a major step forward in sustainability, provides a platform for collective action in elevating sustainability practices.

Meanwhile, with the formalisation of these standards, the co-op is making a promise to its customers that gear purchased at REI will not only perform, but supports better ways of doing business.
 
"One of the most exciting things we've done in the past year was done completely behind the scenes," says REI CEO Jerry Stritzke. "We're collaborating with partners across industries to advance sustainable business practices, and as a result are completely changing the conversation around sustainability for the US outdoor industry."
 
The REI Product Sustainability Standards outline the co-op's expectations for how brands manage key environmental, social and animal welfare impacts, building on work that REI has done over many years to advance sustainability within its own brands. The standards were shaped by input from dozens of partner brands of various sizes and product categories, and were informed by years of participation in the Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group and other key sustainability forums. This input helped to ensure the standards are feasible, address the most relevant topics and reflect best practices.
 
"This effort to advance sustainability across an entire vendor base is among the most comprehensive in the US retail industry," says Adam Siegel, senior vice president of research, innovation and sustainability for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. "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."
 
The standards, as well as resources designed to help brands deepen their own sustainability efforts, will be made available to any retailer that wishes to use them. In addition, REI is also debuting a list of preferred sustainability attributes, highlighting brands and products that are manufactured according to social and sustainability best practices.
 
Visitors to REI.com can now shop by sustainability attribute, by searching for terms like "organic cotton" to find clothing made with resource-conserving farming practices, or "fair trade", which promotes safe, healthy working conditions and sustainable livelihoods as products are created and sold.
 
"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," explains Matthew Thurston, REI's director of sustainability. "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."

Some of the new requirements, such as establishing a manufacturing code of conduct for supply chains, take effect immediately, while others that may take additional time for brands to meet, have an implementation deadline of autumn 2020 product lines. Each brand is also expected to have a restricted substances list, which specifies which chemical substances are banned or restricted in their products. Other expectations outline key impacts to be managed in specific product categories.
 
"No single brand can move the needle on sustainability alone, but by working together we have the potential to make a big impact," says Thurston.