This major retailer is pushing brands to be more inclusive and do better on climate 

This is the perennial problem of greenwashing: It works. People want to feel like they’re doing the right thing and making a difference, and so we’re often happy to pay an extra dollar or two if we think we’re buying something that’s better or safer in some way. 

But behind the scenes, the brands making all that stuff and the retailers selling it know a lot more about their impact than we do. And increasingly, one US company appears to be exerting its power in the fragile manufacturer-vendor relationship to change the world—for good.

REI is a giant, and a force to be reckoned with. By one estimate, there are 61 million American hikers. There are 23 million lifetime members of the REI Co-Op (including this author).

Recently, the Co-op updated its Product Impact Standards, raising the bar for sustainability and inclusivity standards for the brands it sells. In order to sell their products at the Co-op, manufacturer partners must meet all relevant standards—or get there quickly, if they’re not already there. 

“We want our members and our customers to know when they walk into an REI store, or shop with us online, that we’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting behind the scenes,” Greg Gausewitz, senior manager of product sustainability, said in a recent press conference. “[We’re] engaging with brands to make sure that they’re aligning with these social and environmental best practices.”

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