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REI Sales Growth Outpaces Emissions

REI increased its carbon emissions by 7.3 percent last year, less than the company’s 14 percent sales growth, according to its fifth annual stewardship report.

In 2010, the outdoor gear and apparel company’s post-offset CO2e emissions were 75,072 tons, up from 69,982 in 2009. The most significant contributors to this increase were corporate travel, employee commuting, and product transportation, which are all a direct result of company growth, REI says.

The chain grew from 81 stores at the beginning of 2006, when emissions were 90,628, to 114 at the end of 2010, when pre-offset emissions were 108,347. This growth contributed to a higher volume of goods transported to distribution centers, stores and customers, REI said. It expects to open at least eight stores over the course of 2011.

The company said it is pursuing absolute carbon reductions. In 2011, REI will implement performance indicators for greenhouse emissions across its business. Executives will analyze progress against indicators throughout the year, complementing REI’s annual planning and budgeting process.

“This requires us to forecast the greenhouse gas impacts of all of our new projects and initiatives and use that information in our business decisions,” the report said. “Our 2011 GHG impact budget is to remain at or below our absolute climate impact in 2010, or 75,072 tons of CO2, regardless of our growth. We believe few companies in the retail industry are implementing similar accountability steps.”

Energy use will also be one of the performance indicators, REI said.

REI says its largest single source of emissions is air travel associated with its travel package service, REI Adventures. The company will be analyzing the role that carbon offsets should play in addressing these emissions.

Energy use is another large contributor to the company’s GHG emissions. The company used 2.4 percent less energy throughout its facilities in 2010 as compared with 2009, despite adding four new stores and relocating two retail locations to larger spaces. Efficiency investments such as spotlight retrofits and better-performing HVAC units contributed to a 1.3 percent drop in retail energy use, REI says.

It noted that using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Benchmarking Tool to compare its facilities against thousands of other buildings across the country sometimes led to surprising results.

“Our insights have helped REI identify opportunities that would be best to focus our time and resources, sometimes against our intuition,” the report said. “For example, it could be more advantageous for REI to focus on adjusting one store entirely rather than spreading investments across a few retail locations.”

In February 2010, Climate Counts, a nonprofit organization that evaluates companies on their voluntary actions to reverse climate change, named REI one of six charter members in its Industry Innovators (i2) program. REI’s recognition was based on its measurement, reduction efforts and reporting.

REI’s paper-related goals for 2010 included increasing its percentage of certified and recycled fiber. In 2010, 58.4 percent of REI’s paper fiber purchases were Forest Stewardship Council-certified, up from 38.2 percent in 2009, and 30.1 percent were recycled, up from 23.4 percent in 2009.

While still the largest contributor to its paper footprint at 50 percent, REI’s direct mail use decreased to less than 3,300 tons as the company explored other means of marketing, such as mobile technology. This was REI’s second straight year of a significant decrease in its direct mail paper use, the company said.

In 2010, 74 percent of the company’s total operational waste was recycled, including more than 95 percent at REI’s two distribution centers. The enterprise aims to be zero waste-to-landfill by 2020.

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