Members Call on REI to Divest From Banks Funding Fossil Fuel Industry

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CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Ric Lander via Flickr

Divestment would align nicely with the company's professed commitment to environmental stewardship.

Outdoor gear retailer REI has been praised for its #OptOutside campaign, launched in 2015 as an antidote to the shopping frenzy that is Black Friday. Instead of offering deals, REI will close the doors of all 154 locations across the United States and tell people to get outside and spend the day in nature.

Not everyone is thrilled by REI's campaign, however. A group called REI, Divest! is calling on the company to divest from banks that fund the fossil fuel industry, using the hashtag #Opt4Climate. As long as REI continues to use these banks, the group maintains that it undermines the company's self-professed "commitment to promoting environmental stewardship and increasing access to outdoor recreation" and its "work to ensure the next generation has a first-hand connection to the natural spaces we all enjoy."

Take, for example, the photo of the Easton Glacier (pictured below) in Washington state that REI has used to promote the company's Inspiring Girls Expeditions program. Like so many glaciers, it is melting away.

Easton Glacier

© REI -- The Easton Glacier in Washington state, USA

From the REI, Divest! campaign website:

"Stabilizing the climate requires keeping fossil fuels in the ground. We cannot take future access to the outdoors for granted. #OptOutside sits on the path between reality and bittersweet memory."
REI Divest campaign

© Opt4Climate

The group wants REI to:

"Divest all Co-op bank accounts, deposits, short and long-term investments that support the fossil fuel industry, either directly or indirectly. To divest from indirect support, divest from the megabanks funding new tar sands pipelines, such as Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, along with any others listed on the boycott list published and updated by the Indigenous-led group Mazaska (Money) Talks. ('Mazaska' means money in Lakota.) Terminate the Co-op’s credit card partnership with U.S. Bank."

Because REI functions as a cooperative, all members have a say in how the business is run, which means the board of directors does need to pay attention to what the group is asking; the board, however, has not responded yet. From the REI website:

"Being a consumer co-op, rather than a publicly-traded company, enables us to focus on the long-term interests of the co-op and our members. We answer to you—our members—and run our business accordingly."

REI, Divest! has created an online petition with nearly 4,000 signatures so far. You can sign it here.