REI recently released the retail chain’s first stewardship report, outlining the different silos where REI is working to improve social and environmental conditions in its various businesses.

While much of the report focuses on REI’s efforts to create a greener and more socially responsible retail chain, it also addresses issues that could have far reaching impacts throughout the outdoor industry. These initiatives include creating new standards in environmental labeling, packaging and a standardized restricted substances list for REI vendors.

First, REI will be working to create an environmental labeling system. The company will introduce an icon in its product labeling to help consumers identify products that have lower impacts supported by a list of materials that REI believes meet generally accepted hurdles for improved environmental performance. In addition, the company will be adding information to about the decision making process behind all of their REI branded products and the materials used in them. After this first step is complete, the company will begin to engage other companies in the outdoor industry to develop a common approach to assessing the environmental performance of products. The goal will be to develop industry standards in language and definitions.

REI will also be working on creating factory standards for not only REI branded merchandise, but also all brands that the company sells. Part of this effort involves REI’s current initiatives surrounding the Apparel and Footwear International RSL (Restricted Substances List) Management Working Group. REI currently requires that materials defined by the group not be present in REI brand gear and apparel products and that their use is minimized or eliminated from the production process. In 2007, REI will work to increase awareness about the need for a common RSL process among vendors who manufacture non-REI branded product.

Finally, the retail cooperative will also be working on packaging standards. REI joined the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and plans to help generate new ideas and technologies through its participation.