Our theme this year at Sustainable Brands has been “Activating Purpose” – exploring and applauding the ways brands are authentically walking their talk when it comes to pursuing purpose beyond profit – and we are thrilled that the list continues to grow.
Last year, REI set a new precedent in retail when it honored both its company ethos and the holiday spirit by closing its 149 stores on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday - and paying its 12,287 employees to take the days off and ”Opt Outside” to enjoy the great outdoors with their loved ones.
Today, the outdoor co-op is calling on the business community to join its effort to create a cultural counterweight to Black Friday: REI will again close its doors on Black Friday, but this year it is inviting brands, NGOs and organizations of all kinds to take a stand against the chaotic caricature of capitalism that’s become synonymous with the holidays by encouraging their employees to #OptOutside instead.
REI is calling on companies of all kinds - but particularly the outdoor community - to celebrate the people who dedicate their lives to the outdoors. Already a vast network of organizations has united to mobilize millions more to embrace the outdoors in an effort to create a new holiday tradition for all Americans.
“This year, REI will shut down on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday because fundamentally we believe that being outside makes us our best selves – healthier and happier, physically and mentally. But as a nation we’re still spending over 90 percent of our lives indoors and it’s a trend we need to tackle,” said REI CEO Jerry Stritzke. “I love that there is a community of people in this country who dedicate their lives to that mission, so together, we are asking America: ‘Will you go out with us?’”
REI gives 70 percent of its profits back to the outdoor community annually and has united more than 250 non-profit, government and corporate partners – including Subaru of America, Google and Upworthy - to help inspire millions of people to skip the big-box stores and hit the trails, parks and waterways on November 25. While Subaru retailers will remain open on Black Friday to help power its drivers’ outdoor adventures, the automaker will be bringing together two of its drivers’ passions, the outdoors and pets, and inviting pet lovers everywhere to #OptOutside with their four-legged friends on Black Friday.
“The moment we announced our decision last year, people who build their lives around the outdoors really embraced the idea of reclaiming Black Friday - it took on a life of its own and became about much more than REI,” Stritzke continued. “#OptOutside should be a platform for the nonprofits and public servants who are on the front lines of the outdoor community. They’re the ones who make the outdoors accessible for everyone. That’s why, from today onward, we’re going to lift them up as the official spokespeople for #OptOutside.”
REI is putting power in the hands of more than 6 million co-op members and lovers of the outdoors, asking every individual to invite someone else to choose the outdoors over fighting it out in the aisles. REI.com/opt-outside will serve as the hub to get involved, declare support, invite others to join the movement or simply find a place to play outdoors. Visitors can upload photos, share through social media, discover thousands of trails and parks nearby or get connected with non-profits who steward the outdoors.
Consumers want brands to do more; “The Public on Purpose” survey – a joint study by SB and GlobeScan, released in June - found that expectations for business to address social issues are higher than ever: 65 percent of consumers globally said they try to support brands that are “purposeful,” or “making a positive difference to society through products, services, etc.”
REI is proving the business case for living its ethos - as Stritzke pointed out in a blog post yesterday: “In our increasingly urbanized society, we all need to find time to breathe fresh air and reflect. Spending time outdoors lifts us up. That idea is baked into the way we run REI. It’s one of the reasons we give more than 70 percent of our profits back to the outdoor community. And I believe our 78-year-old outdoor co-op continues to do well in a tough retail environment thanks to that focus.”
By extending #OptOutside to the entire business and outdoor community, REI offers a perfect example of how to build a successful movement to drive positive behavior change and impacts. We at Sustainable Brands - along with, we hope, many of our community members - will be hopping aboard to #OptOutside along with REI.