As addressing on the global warming crisis becomes more and more urgent, outdoor apparel companies like Patagonia, North Face, and Black Diamond Apparel have issued campaigns to tackle climate change themselves.
For example, after the current administration announced they were shrinking the size of two beloved national monuments in Utah, Patagonia published the words “The President Stole Your Land” on their website — that effort quickly went viral.
But the industry was just getting started. Outdoor apparel giants including North Face and R.E.I. boycotted a longstanding trade show in Salt Lake City after the Utah governor failed to reconsider his position on public land policy, and Patagonia has even sued the government over the national park reductions. These companies have also supported nonprofits and advocacy groups focused on progressive environmental reform — both through corporate donations and in-store promotion and brand partnerships.
For companies like Patagonia and REI, whose employees and customers tend to share the “crunchiness” associated with conservation values and a passion for the outdoors, coming out strongly against the administration’s attacks on public lands was a natural next step. What’s more surprising, however, is the unified way the whole sector has mobilized. Companies that have long been engaged with these issues have turned up the volume on their advocacy, while companies that hadn’t previously taken a strong stance have begun reaching out to their customers.
“For our industry, it didn’t take a lot of discussion,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of Outdoor Industry Association, which represents more than 1,200 outdoor businesses. The fact that the outdoor industry can now make an economic argument for the value of public lands – a recent report from the Outdoor Industry Association says the outdoor recreation economy generates $887bn a year – has also increased its political clout.
John Sterling, executive director of the Conservation Alliance, which collects dues from outdoor companies to fund grassroots conservation efforts, said the mobilization of outdoors companies only appears extraordinary absent its context. What’s going on is not normal, he argued. Never before has a president, in one fell swoop, stripped protections from 2m acres.
“The election and the politics that have followed have been a direct assault on the lands that mean so much to the outdoor industry,” said Sterling. “The response right now is at the scale of the threat.”
While we are still a long way away from intelligent and competent environmental policy, it is certainly encouraging to see influential corporations join the fight for a greener planet. Let’s hope it is just the beginning.
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