The great outdoors should be enjoyed by all, but there is a gap in who has access to it. This inequity isn’t only in experiencing nature itself, but also in entering the business surrounding the activities. The outdoor sector is worth $459.8 billion, but only around 1 percent of the retail space is owned or led by people of color. Today, we dive into how one brand is providing funding to help solve this glaring disparity.
Outdoor clothing and equipment retailer, REI, has announced a $30 million investment to increase the number of entrepreneurs of color in its industry. This Path Ahead Ventures initiative will support 300 Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian American Pacific Islander founders in launching and scaling their businesses by 2030. These partnerships are projected to generate $1 billion in sales and make up over 15 percent of the brands sold at the co-op’s 171 locations and online. Susan Viscon, REI Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Investment, explains that this effort goes beyond the bottom line to “provide the opportunity for [the business owners’] innovations, perspectives and ideas to influence the broader industry.” This endeavor is part of the brand’s overall strategy to become a “fully inclusive, anti-racist multicultural organization.”
In 2020, brands acknowledged systemic inequities affecting minority communities, but, in 2021, stakeholders are looking for action toward solving them. Indeed, our research has found that 59 percent of Americans actually want companies to take the lead in addressing social justice issues. As we saw in today’s example, when a brand answers this call and invests in systemic change, it benefits its own industry and ultimately the private sector as a whole.