Customers to REI: tell PFAS chemicals to take a hike!
In one month, REI Co-op will hold its annual member meeting, which “provides an opportunity for co-op members to hear from the board of directors and senior leadership team.” The meeting will be held virtually and the company’s leadership team will answer questions submitted by its members. And the biggest question that we – and more than 110,000 REI customers – have for REI CEO Eric Artz is:
When will REI ban PFAS “forever chemicals” in the products it sells?
PFAS in outdoor gear continues to be a growing concern. Over the last few months, REI members and customers have signed petitions and sent e-mails to REI CEO Eric Artz and the board demanding action on the PFAS crisis. Recent testing identified PFAS chemicals in popular REI brand jackets, including chemicals banned for manufacture in the United States and European Union.
And just last week, NRDC, Fashion FWD, and U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a new scorecard ranking 30 top retail and outdoor apparel brands on their policies to address PFAS. While REI competitor Patagonia earned a ‘B,’ the highest grade of all the outdoor apparel brands surveyed, REI earned an ‘F.’ If other major outdoor brands like Patagonia and Keen can take action on PFAS, surely REI can too.
So far, REI has not meaningfully responded to the growing calls for leadership on the PFAS public health crisis. REI has taken some small steps, but we expect them to meet or beat Patagonia’s commitment. Earlier this week, REI released its 2021 annual impact report, which included no new initiatives to address the growing PFAS crisis. For a company with such a strong commitment to sustainability and the outdoors, it is surprising the co-op has yet to take sufficient action to address chemicals that have polluted drinking water and even breast milk and that are contributing to climate change.
The company is proud to say that “REI is a different kind of company. As a co-op, we put purpose before profits and act in the long-term interests of our members and community.” It’s time the company put that purpose into action. Surely selling products that leave behind a toxic trail of PFAS pollution is not in the long-term interests of its members, communities, or the environment.
With great market power comes great responsibility. This week REI announced it brought in a whopping $3.7 billion in revenue for 2021, an increase of 36% compared to 2020 and a record for the company. REI has a responsibility to leverage that market power to drive PFAS out of the products it sells.
With REI’s member meeting just one month away, REI must respond to the calls for action from its customers, members, and more than 100 local, state, and national environmental and public health groups that are urging REI to lead the outdoor apparel industry away from PFAS.
As a values-driven co-op, will REI heed the call for change at its upcoming member meeting?