New supplier guidelines issued by REI will require its cookware suppliers to remove environmentally harmful long-chain PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) from their products by fall 2024. The outdoor gear retailer also imposed the same deadline for textile products covered under a California law that takes effect in early 2025, and it will require PSAF-free products from all its textile suppliers by fall 2026.
This class of chemicals are “persistent and distributed ubiquitously in the global environment,” according to the OECD, and can “cause various adverse effects in wildlife and humans.”
REI also has updated supplier rules regarding pricing equity and inclusivity issues, saying the retailer “expects that all wearable products offered in a variety of sizes maintain the same price within a style regardless of size.” Additionally, the retailer is requiring brand partners to have creative controls in place to prevent cultural appropriation of designs, patterns, materials or words that are “culturally meaningful to and/or originated from underrepresented communities.” Makers of any type of headwear, from helmets to hijabs, will need to provide “an inclusive assortment for a variety of hair types, including higher-volume and textured hair.”
A Kantar Retail study from October 2022 recommended that brands and retailers emphasize value and making eco-friendly changes more visible to consumers as a way to sway “sustainability wannabes.”
“Every product the co-op brings to its members is an opportunity to advance better ways of doing business that shape a positive future for life outdoors,” according to the updated guidelines’ introduction. “It was in that spirit that we first launched these standards in 2018, raising the bar on product sustainability across REI offerings.”
The retailer touted the results of its programs over the past five years, including:
- Brand partners representing more than $3.8 billion in annual sales have assessed their sustainability practices and shared their progress with REI;
- More than 400 brands encompassing over 10,000 styles report using REI’s preferred sustainability attributes for their products; and
- More than 300 brands representing over 70% of annual sales are now measuring their greenhouse gas emissions and setting reduction targets.
Other retailers have been focusing their sustainability initiatives not just on their own actions but also those of their suppliers: Crate & Barrel Holdings announced plans in August 2022 to make the products it carries more sustainable by 2025.