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REI CEO Brings Sustainability Know-How to Interior

Sally Jewell (pictured), the REI CEO announced yesterday as President Obama’s pick for interior secretary, has steered the outdoor goods company through a number of environmental initiatives since taking the post in 2005.

The company opened its first prototype green building store in 2007 at the University Oaks Shopping Center in Boulder, Colo. To date, REI says six of its facilities have been LEED certified.

A year later the company announced plans to retrofit more than 10 percent of its stores with solar power, and installed solar panels on 11 REI stores alone in 2008. The company increased its investment to 12 additional stores and a distribution center in Bedford, Penn. in 2011, and currently has 26 locations with solar technology.

The firm is a founder member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which last July unveiled the Higg Index, a tool for measuring clothing’s environmental impacts across the supply chain. REI is also a member of Bluesign Technologies AG, allowing the company to use the Bluesign standard as part of its product design and sourcing process. REI designers are using the standard to make yarn, fabric, and dye decisions, and in the selection of mills and production factories.

In 2007, select REI brand products began carrying an eco-sensitive label, designating items manufactured with a high percentage of recycled, rapidly renewable and/or organic fibers.

Additionally, some 50 REI products, including Novara bike accessories, display the How2Recycle Label, a voluntary label developed by GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition to provide on-package recycling information to consumers.

In 2010, REI signed on as a Climate Counts Industry Innovators (i2) project charter company. The program scores large companies on their climate impact. According to the 2012 scorecard, REI received 63 points and a “striding” mark, which Climate Counts says makes REI products “a very good choice.” Striding companies “still have work to do, but they’re beginning to hit their stride.” This is an eight-point improvement over REI’s 2011 score.

According to the company’s most recent Stewardship Report, REI increased its carbon emissions four percent in 2011 — its goal was to be flat over the prior year. The CO2 increase was, however, lower than the company’s growth rate of 8.4 percent sales growth.

REI says its 2012 goal for company-wide operational emissions is 76,085 tons CO2, a decrease of 2.5 percent from 2011 levels. The firm has set a target of becoming climate-neutral by 2020.

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