REI Rolls Out Rigorous New Sustainability Standards for Suppliers
REI announced this week stricter rules for its product suppliers. The Seattle Times reports suppliers that can’t or won’t meet REI requirements in areas such as manufacturing labor safety and fairness, chemical usage, environmental impact, and animal welfare won’t be considered for its store shelves. REI's prefers all 1,000-plus brands it currently works with to abide by its new green agenda, including preference of Fair Trade certification, “which promotes safe, healthy working conditions and helps empower communities”; restrictions on certain chemicals, including flame-retardant chemicals that are commonly used on camping shelters; and a responsible wool standard that promotes better animal welfare and land management practices. Suppliers that aren't able or willing to meet REI's requirements will not be sold by the retailer. REI CEO Jerry Stritzke calls the standards “maybe one of the most transformative things” the 80-year-old co-op has done — one he hopes will have a ripple effect beyond its own industry.
Total Retail's Take: REI has long been a leader in sustainability best practices in retail. The company's new sustainability standards for suppliers speaks to the brand's commitment to the environment. The new policy is clear, specific and firm on what REI expects from suppliers, and if not met, we could be seeing a very different merchandise assortment from the retailer by the end of 2020. REI is doubling down on its commitment to improving the environment, and hopefully other retailers follow suit. It will be particularly interesting to see if apparel brands begin to distance themselves from the fast-fashion model and make sustainability a top priority.