REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.), the Seattle based outdoor gear co-op with 3.5 million member/customers has just released their Stewardship Report for 2007. And it makes for fascinating reading.
But you'll need to set aside a little time. For this is a remarkably detailed audit of the co-operative's attempt to measure their impact on community, environment and people. Like Patagonia's Footprint Chronicles this report shows it warts and all. The charts clearly indicate both the obstacles successfully hurdled and those stumbled at. They candidly detail the challenges faced and their commitment going forward. We take a squiz at a few of these aspects after the fold, or you can download a 1.3MB PDF brochure with the highlights.Here is a random gathering of stats, gleaned from the vast amount of information collated in the REI 2007 Stewardship Report:
• Employee turnover rate was 36.5%, the lowest in 10 years.
• They note with regard to Green Building that "it can be challenging to separate supplier's environmental claims from real technical innovation."
• They piloted a program to learn about the labor compliance programs of 20 non-REI brand vendors to better inform and educate brands on this topic.
• Next year REI will check-in with the top 50 brands in their portfolio on labor and factory compliance.
• During 2008 their bike shops will begin introducing machines that use water and sonic waves to clean bikes, eliminating approximately 4,000 gallons of hazardous materials and chemical solvents.
• REI is currently recycling 76% of their waste by weight, or 67% by volume.The goal to become a zero waste-to-landfill organization by 2020.
• In 2007 they reduced the "unknown" fibre content in their paper purchases from 20% in 2006 to only 10.8%. Purchases of paper products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) rose to 16.8%.
• Yet their tonnage of paper purchased increased by 16.7% in 2007 compared to 2006, mostly due to using more paper in direct mail and catalog operations.
And on it goes. (Bear in mind that we have only selected a few items to report on here. REI should be congratulated for the thoroughness and honesty with which they have approached this exercise.)
• Throughout 2007 REI automatically offset all greenhouse gases (GHG) generated by their travel program, 'REI Adventures', through the purchase of renewable energy credits. They offset an estimated 30,822 tons of CO2, which accounts for every trip taken by every REI Adventures customer, from their home airport and back again.
• The downside was that the overall GHGs generated from travel associated with REI Adventures grew by 17.6% compared to the previous year.
• They are looking to work with logistics suppliers (delivering product to shops and warehouses) to measure individual company performance and ask them to compete on their GHG emissions performance and on traditional metrics, such as on-time delivery. This is a new area for many suppliers; however REI have been pleased with the interest from the shipping industry to do their part.\
• On labelling products under their EcoSensitive program introduced in 2007, they note, "communicating effectively with members and customers about the complexity of product impacts, while offering authentic information in an approachable non-expert manner while not inadvertently exaggerating claims is difficult."
• For this year all ecoSensitive products will contain either 50% recycled or 85% rapidly renewable, minimally processed textiles or 95% organic cotton. Any cotton used in ecoSensitive products must be organic cotton. No polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can be used in ecoSensitive products.
• REI distributed $3.5 million USD to local and national nonprofit organizations in support of conservation and recreation, with an emphasis on engaging youth.
• Taught 142,435 children Leave No Trace principles to recreate responsibly in shared outdoor spaces through their Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids (PEAK) program.
See the full 2007 Stewardship Report here.
And if all this wasn't enough, we note that REI were recently named the "Employer of the Year" at the 2008 World Retail Congress, in Barcelona, Spain. We'd previously mentioned that they were selected for Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work for in America," a distinction they've managed for the past 11 years.
We hope to have an interview soon with Kevin Hagen, REI's Director of CSR, who should be able to shed light on just how a membership based co-op can generate billion dollar
profits sales, while still focussing considerable energies on environmental stewardship and community engagement.
In the meantime look back at some of their past achievements: