"Anything. Everything. Something."
In a recent SNEWS survey circulated around the outdoor industry, that was one participant's answer to the question, "What more would you like to see your company do in response to racial injustice?"
It wasn't an isolated plea. Dozens of employees representing some of the industry's largest players echoed a similar sentiment, saying they felt their employers could be doing more.
Out of 59 respondents representing more than 40 outdoor businesses and organizations, 89.8 percent said their employers have not released action plans with specific, measurable goals for promoting anti-racism, and only 61 percent said their organizations have issued statements at all—the bare minimum of participatory support for racial equity in the industry.
Even more telling, 84.7 percent of participants answered "no" to the question, "Do you feel that your company has done enough to respond to the problems of racial injustice brought to light, once again, by the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests?"
That question was followed by a write-in section that produced perhaps the most vivid picture of inaction among industry organizations. Respondents painted an unfortunate portrait of resistance and halfheartedness at many companies.
Statements of frustration
"They have not specifically addressed systematic racism and police brutality in their statements," one anonymous respondent wrote of his or her company, which was not identified by name. "Some people asked for the company to include anti-racist wording in the company statement, but they refused to do so."
Many other survey participants, nearly all of them writing anonymously, made similar observations:
"Our GM does not believe that a statement is necessary. White male with a senior leadership team of all white males."
"My company issued a single paragraph on our website, nothing on our social or brand channels. They also just threw in some buzzwords and nothing more. Nothing about how they, as a leader in the outdoor industry, will strive to elevate black voices and fight for change in the industry. Employees voiced concern to our CEO and he completely dismissed us by telling us our disappointment is misplaced."
"No accountability measures have been put into place. Leadership/higher ups are still gatekeeping with white supremacy. Hiring more interns of color isn't going to help."
"Our company submitted a very ambiguous statement in an apolitical view. Very disappointing for our colleagues and many on the leadership team. We were not allowed to post anything on social. We are devastated by the continued racism and police brutality and can not voice our opinion at a brand level because of ownership's decisions to be non-partisan."
"The statement issued by my employer was extremely vague and focused on the company itself instead of the suffering of others. While it mentioned George Floyd, it did not name the causes of his death (racism and police brutality) and it included no indication that the company intends to take any action at all."
"They specifically rejected a letter written by 30 employees asking for them to address racism and police brutality against BIPOC after the murder of George Floyd, saying that they the company couldn't be political and must remain 'colorblind.'"
"We haven't made a response internally or externally, and I feel it is completely INADEQUATE to not issue a statement at the very least internally. I would like to see, at a bare minimum that our leadership team has a roundtable discussion about racism and we can agree on where we as a company stands on racism and then explain to our company as a whole where we stand, then take steps from there."
Not all of the statements were critical or anonymous. Several respondents expressed approval of their employers' action plans.
An employee from prAna wrote, "My company is in the process of outlining next steps in a long term plan with input from our advocates, consumers and employees. We’re working to research the best approach to have meaningful change. It’s important to hold brands accountable, but we need to give them space to create something that will hold up and something they can execute."
At Merrell, one respondent commented, "I think my company's response has been really good so far. We have made multiple statements in support of Black Lives Matter, made significant donations to black-led organizations, and are working internally and externally to make lasting change and be more transparent. But change takes time. Though the are working on a plan, I do not expect the company to have an action plan in place already. These plans should be well thought out and not rushed. But I would like to see an action plan with specific, measurable goals for promoting anti-racism within the coming weeks."
Another from Moosejaw wrote, "As an Afro-indigenous woman on the marketing team, I was proud to see Moosejaw be an ally to the movement as an outdoor company. Moosejaw signed the Outdoor CEO pledge prior to the protests. In terms of recent response, Moosejaw leveraged social media to make a statement, our CEO using his LinkedIn to reach other outdoor industry leaders, and him reaching out to the company internally with kind words of solidarity and encouraging/requiring that we engage in necessary discourse on these topics among each department with leadership. Our CEO has acknowledged publicly that there is more work to be done and is committed to following up with proof of the work."
These positive comments were far outweighed by criticism, however. In general, it appears as though most employee requests have gone unheeded.
"Anything, everything, something" is still needed, according to many.
If you haven't taken the survey yet, please do so here. Our collection of responses is ongoing. In coming weeks, we'll be following up with more in-depth investigation of some of the comments and concerns received.