REI goes carbon neutral and pledges new sustainability goals

The retailer has realized its 14-year plan of transitioning to carbon neutral operations by 2020.
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Front view of REI in North Conway

REI's goal to reduce raw emissions by 55 percent over the next decade was influenced by the latest guidance from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

REI announced today that the company will become Climate Neutral Certified in 2020, officially completing a goal laid out by former CEO Sally Jewell in 2006. The company has also pledged to reduce its carbon emissions—raw carbon output, as opposed to net output, which can be reduced through the purchase of carbon credits—by 55 percent over the next 10 years.

“The climate crisis is the greatest threat to the future of life outdoors and to REI’s business," REI CEO Eric Artz said in a statement Thursday. "The science is clear about what we, as a society, need to do to change that future. The world must halve its greenhouse gasses emissions by 2030, so that’s where REI—and the broader outdoor community—must lead. Going forward, we’re embedding the impact of doing business, and the cost, into our business model.”

Beginning with emissions in 2020, the company will offset its annual carbon output through the purchase of credits that will cost "in the millions," said REI senior sustainability manager Andrew Dempsey.

REI has pledged to join dozens of other forward-thinking companies that have become Climate Neutral Certified in recent years.

REI has pledged to join dozens of other forward-thinking companies that have become Climate Neutral Certified in recent years.

"The reality is, being in the business of making stuff means that you're still going to emit greenhouse gases. We want to hold ourselves accountable and take the cost of those emissions into our business," Dempsey told SNEWS. "As we look to offset our footprint starting in 2020, that cost will be something that we collectively own as an organization. In terms of the specific mechanisms we'll use to embed that cost in the business, we're still designing what that process and framework will look like."

The company will not pay to offset the carbon impact of all products it sells in its stores, Dempsey confirmed. Credits purchased will cover only REI-branded products and company operations.

In the same announcement this morning, REI also laid out an ambitious goal for the next decade: reducing raw emissions by 55 percent over the next 10 years. The number was set according to the latest guidance from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the company said. According to data in that report, global emissions must be reduced by a minimum of 55 percent by 2030 to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change around the world.

“We must act now, for the generations that follow," said Artz.

Finally, the company committed Thursday morning to planting 1 million trees around the world by 2030 as part of the 1 Trillion Trees initiative, led by the Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund, and BirdLife International.

"This is a journey we've been on for a long time and the commitments announced today are the next evolution of that journey," said Dempsey. "This is an opening statement to engaging further with our community, with our members, with our employees. Reducing our footprint by 55 percent is critical, but it's through the actions of our community that we can really begin to create more change."

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