Product Sustainability at REI

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Most of the merchandise sold at REI, a premier outdoor gear store, comes from non-private label brands. The Co-op owns four brands: REI, REI Co-op, evrgrn, and Novara. However, REI’s roughly 1,500 non-private brands present a tremendous opportunity to advance sustainability on the behalf of its over 6M members. With helpful context provided by REI, this project evaluated the opportunities for the Co-op to support the sustainability of these products by incorporating 3rd-party certifications, initiatives, and other standards into its merchandising criteria. It also looked at the opportunities for supporting the demand for these products by educating consumers. The project coupled publicly available information on sustainability standards and brands’ practices with interviews and a follow-up survey with sustainability leaders at REI’s wholesale brands (18 and 15, respectively). It also included conversations with other retailers and industry experts. The resulting analysis recommends a collaborative framework for implementing tiered merchandising criteria that address brands’ business needs and varied sustainability work. The project also evaluates how brands are using sustainability certifications; how they communicate product sustainability to consumers; and the extent of their knowledge about consumer attitudes and life cycle impacts. The recommendations include opportunities for REI to further engage consumers and take a leadership role on near-term and emerging issues like packaging and end-of-life systems. The project also suggests a framework of management practices for traceability and retailers’ surveys for brands, leading internal organizational change, and supporting suppliers.





Brown, Tatyana (2016). Product Sustainability at REI. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.