Featured Do-Gooder Company: REI

Feel Good FridayIt’s Feel Good Friday and this week’s Do-Gooder Company, REI, is all about nature conservation, the environment and outdoor education.  With stores in 33 states, REI is currently one of the nation’s largest purveyors of outdoor sports and activity equipment.  But they are so much more than that too.  They offer learning opportunities through classes at the REI Outdoor School and online through their blog and expert advice series.  Through REI Adventures, you and your family can embark on a guided trip that connects you to the outdoors in some of the world’s most awesome natural environments.  You can also download a Kid’s Adventure Journal from their website as a way to help your kids connect with and enjoy outdoor activities.

REI Store, Bellingham, Washington

REI Store, Bellingham, Washington (Photo credit: Reg Natarajan)

I know, I know.  Their product and program offerings are very cool and hip, but this does not make theme a Do-Gooder Company.  Well, folks, hold onto your hats because their Do-Gooder initiatives are just as exciting.   Built into REI’s corporate values is a commitment to connect people to the outdoors and protect nature through active conservation projects.  REI uses a multi-prong approach to address this social need:  1. Volunteerism  2. Grants and Giving and 3. Sustainable Operations.REI in community

  • Volunteerism:  REI both hosts and promotes volunteer opportunities for employees and the public at large.  In 2012, REI stores promoted more than 750 outdoor volunteer projects in which more than 87,000 people participated.  Moreover, programs supported through REI grants engaged nearly 397,000 people in 2.8 million hours of volunteer work on public lands.
  • Grants and Giving:  Aiming to help conserve natural spaces in order to enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation, REI dedicates 3% of the previous year’s operating profit to it’s annual giving budget.  In 2012, this meant that REI awarded $3.9 million to over 260 nonprofit organizations.  In addition to grants, REI empowers stores to engage with local nonprofits by raising awareness of the organizations among REI customers, providing gear loans and product donations.
  • Sustainable Operations:   REI has adopted a targeted approach to reducing their environmental impact.  For instance, with regard to Greenhouse Gas Emissions, REI aspires to become climate neutral in operations by 2020.  Some of the ways they are working toward this include utilizing solar technology in stores and incentiving the use of public transit by offering a 50% transit subsidy to employees.  Want more details on REI’s other plans in support of Sustainable Operations?   Read about them here.

    REI meetup at Leschi Starbucks for Bike to Wor...

    REI meetup at Leschi Starbucks for Bike to Work Day (Photo credit: jcolman)

My Bottom Line:  REI offers products and programs that encourage individuals to enjoy the outdoors.  At the same time they incorporate socially responsible business, encouraging volunteerism among employees and customers, supports local non-profit efforts to conserve open, natural spaces and is conscious of their impact on the environment as a whole.  Though they don’t claim it, I feel comfortable saying that engagement with the outdoors leads to a healthier lifestyle and ultimately a healthier planet.  In this age of technology, there are many who prefer “screen time” over outdoor activity and REI (and their partners) are working to combat this status quo.  So, in support of their mission, STOP READING MY BLOG, TURN OFF THE COMPUTER AND HEAD OUTSIDE!  Get your family together and go for a hike, a walk, a bike ride.  Climb a rock wall or kayak across a lake.  Engage with nature – you won’t regret it!

Hiking

Hiking (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Oh, and, when I said “stop reading my blog,” I didn’t mean forever.  Please stop back soon to check out my newest post, but take some time to enjoy the outdoors between visits!

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8 thoughts on “Featured Do-Gooder Company: REI

  1. Of course you’re right, that people engaging directly with the outdoors helps those individuals move toward a healthier lifestyle, and you’re almost certainly right that it’s also better for the planet in the long run. Why should we conserve something that isn’t great, and worth having? Why is nature worth preserving? Well, to find out, you need to turn the TV off, and go experience it first hand!

    Also, REI goes above and beyond for their customers. Their generous return policy means a person can buy a pair of snowshoes, never having gone out in the snow before, and return them if they don’t enjoy snowshoeing. The same goes for anything else they sell; you can buy a bike secure in the knowledge that you can return it if you don’t like cycling. Ultimately, I think this helps because it lowers the barrier to entry; it takes the risk out of trying a new outdoor activity. Most people who take up the challenge find out that it’s very rewarding outside.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on REI’s customer service. Having just experienced some really terrible customer service (Grrrr…cable companies), it is so refreshing to hear that good customer service still exists! I don’t think I’ve ever returned anything to REI, but I love that policy. It truly does take the risk out of trying something new.

      • Update.

        A bit more than three years ago, I bought a floor pump from REI (for my bicycle tires). Last weekend, it abruptly stopped working; it was ok on Saturday, but on Sunday, two hours drive from home, I wasn’t able to put more than about half the air pressure I needed in a tire. And I was already in La Conner.

        After my ride (which I finished gingerly!), I took the pump into REI, told somebody what had happened to me (I’m not very mechanically inclined) and the guy told me “We’ll see if we can fix this, they’re usually pretty serviceable. If we can’t get it fixed, of course you can exchange it for a new one at no charge because you bought it here.”

        Well, I left with my pump working, which was the best possible outcome. And they didn’t charge me a cent. This is pretty typical of my experience with REI, and it’s why I shop with them.

  2. You should look closer at this company and when you do it’s not as great as you think. Staff hours for existing staff were cut in 2012, while adding new staff without adding hours to existing staff. Could you survive on 4.5 hours work every 2weeks? I couldn’t either. In addition staff lost major medical benefits. The company is moving farther and farther from it’s core values to staff and to co-op members. It really pains me to see this happen. I had hoped that REI was going to be a fun exciting place to continue to work at after 25 previous years @ 911. If you are a co-op member I hope you will ask the board why they have strayed from Mr Andersons goals and commitments.

    • I appreciate your comments. In researching companies that I feature, I do attempt to do due diligence and ensure that I am offering accurate information. My research into REI revealed that they were ranked #8 on CNN’s 2012 100 Best Companies to Work For. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/best-companies/2012/snapshots/8.html. I am not sure what staff you are referring to who have lost major medical benefits, but I have found REI’s benefits programs to be well above what most companies offer. It is my understanding that they offer full-time benefits to employees who work more than 20 hours per week and pay 60% of premium costs for PaTH (part-time health coverage) for employees who work less than 20 hours per week. I don’t claim to know everything about the business operations of the companies I review and can only work off of available information. I hope that your experience is not the norm within this company and wish you the best of luck.

  3. Pingback: Do-Gooder Companies: Mother’s Day Edition | The Do-Gooder Mama

  4. Pingback: Why buy from REI | Good Green Fun

  5. Pingback: Do-Gooder Companies – Father’s Day Edition | The Do-Gooder Mama

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