The founder of the groundbreaking pledge runs down the successes and the work still to be done when it comes to making the outdoor industry more inclusive and equitable.
By Teresa Baker
My focus on racial disparities in the outdoor industry over the past 10 years, has been at times, promising and discouraging. Promising because of all the conversations and social boasting of what the industry will do, discouraging because there’s very little follow up behind the “black squares”, and the “Black Lives Matter” quotes. Reports on racial progress in the outdoor industry are no different than reporting on racial progress in this country, fragmented at best.
The Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, was created to help leadership along the path of progress as it relates to communities of color, a blueprint if you will. The pledge gives room for companies to determine how best to apply the four steps of the pledge to their individual companies, we offer suggestions and follow their progress.
In this process, I’m learning that I must give grace to companies as they grow in business and in their commitment to diversifying the industry. This work is not easy, I acknowledge that. Our signatories who have committed to the pledge over the past five years, understand and acknowledge this as well. Having over 150 brands offer themselves up to public scrutiny, cannot be an easy decision for CEOs to make, so at this 5 year mark of the pledge, I’m taking this time to say thank you to all of our pledge signatories.
In this process, I’m learning that I must give grace to companies as they grow in business and in their commitment to diversifying the industry.
As part of the commitment companies make by signing onto the pledge, they also commit to a bi-yearly report, these reports speak to the progress and struggles companies are working through; it’s a way for companies to hold themselves accountable to their commitments. These reports can be found HERE.
There are a few reports I would like to share here that speaks to the well thought out efforts of these companies, Brooks Running being one. In their pledge report, they talk about the progress they are making and the commitments they continue to stand by. The running industry, historically, has not shined a light on diverse athletes, often excluding their accomplishments. Brooks is working to change that. They have also made public their company demographics. (found in their report) listing gender and racial make-up of both staff and leadership over the past 4 years. This will aid the industry as a whole, by showing where progress is needed as it relates to hiring and retention.
Brooks also played a major role in getting RIDC up and running, (no pun intended) not with just a financial commitment but with their CEO Jim Weber attending some of the very first meetings with the newly formed RIDC.
Brooks 3 main objectives:
- PROMOTE A DIVERSE, EQUITABLE, AND INCLUSIVE WORKPLACE
We believe in the power of diversity, which includes people of different races/ethnicities, national origins, abilities, genders, ages, sexual orientations, body types, and circumstances. We pursue practices that will achieve equity in our business—so everyone feels a sense of belonging as their own, authentic self.
- ENSURE REPRESENTATION OF ALL WHO RUN. We commit to tell stories through a diverse set of runners and celebrate the power of the run to bring people together.
- Foster Diversity and Inclusion in the Run Community – Our community impact programs support teams and organizations that advance health and well-being through the power of the run, with an emphasis on increasing diversity and inclusion.
“Brooks is a leader in the running industry when it comes to addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as sustainability. I appreciate that they are transparent about their work; consumers deserve accountability and Brooks continues to set the bar for what that looks like.” —Alison Mariella Désir, author of Running While Black
Patagonia is another company that has placed emphasis on hiring and retention.
“When I look at my business today, I realize one of the biggest challenges I have is combating complacency. I always say we’re running this company as if it’s going to be here a hundred years from now, but that doesn’t mean we have 100 years to get there. Our success and longevity lie in our ability to change quickly. Continuous change and innovation require maintaining a sense of urgency, a tall order, especially in this company’s seemingly laid-back corporate culture. In fact, one of the biggest mandates I have for managers at the company, is to instigate change.” —Patagonia Founder, Yvon Chouinard, from his book Let My People Go Surfing
In its recent report, Patagonia states the following:
Recruiting and Hiring Policy: In November 2022, we finalized our Recruiting and Hiring
Policy from the interim version we were using prior. This policy establishes an equitable
hiring process that intentionally broadens and diversifies our candidate pools.
Since fall of 2020, we have seen a shift in both the composition of candidate slates—that is
who makes it into the final rounds—and the number of BIPOC hires, which have increased
from 27% in 2019 to 43% by September 2022.
● Our Talent Acquisition team has also expanded its own racial diversity from 10% of those
who identify as BIPOC in 2020 to 58% by September 2023. This has been an important shift
in welcoming and supporting new hires from BIPOC and other marginalized identities.
● We have increased racial diversity among our most senior roles (director-level and above)
from less than 13% (as reported in 2021) to 20% BIPOC-identifying
● Fifty percent of Patagonia’s senior leadership team (reporting directly to the CEO) and 48%
of director-level positions and above identify as women.
● We are currently establishing new demographic baselines to assess and track our employee
base. We want to set new goals that not only ensure diverse and representative hiring, but
also, equitable processes for development, promotion and retention across the company,
including the most senior positions.
“What I respect most about Patagonia is the comfortable atmosphere they create for their employees to practice self-care and the commitment they make to parents in regards to childcare. They offer a variety of wellness programs; employees often meet to explore the outdoors together.
“I also appreciate how they strive to course correct, when necessary, whether it’s meeting the moment for racial justice or updating materials to be more sustainable” Leah Thomas, past employee and founder of Intersectional Environmentalist.
Granite Gear is probably the most laid-back company in the outdoor industry I’ve come across, aside from Moosejaw. The General manager, Rob and David, their director of product design, have always shown a desire and openness to work with community leaders on ideas and gear suggestions. This has proven vital in establishing authentic relationships.
In the summary of their yearly report, they state the following:
“At Granite Gear, DEI has become as important to us as making kick ass gear
and we’re not going to stop or be quiet about it. Thanks to all who have
partnered with us over the past year-plus. You are all part of the GG Family!”
Some of the community members they’ve worked with over the past years are:
● Alex Wehrle (Legacy Groundskeeper)
● Ángel Peña (Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project)
● Britany Greenwalt (11th Essential & Grounds Keeper)
● CJ Goulding (Children & Nature Network)
● Cliford Mervil (Outdoor Photographer)
● Crystal Egli & Parker McMullen Bushman (Digital Green Book)
● Derick Lugo (The Unlikely Hiker)
● Jeffrey Jenkins (Chubby Diaries)
● Tyler Lau (Hiking Prodigy)
● Will Robinson (Akuna Hikes)
● Juan Micahel Porter II
● Kazimieras Urbonavicius (Warrior Expeditions)
● Lonnie Dupre (Polar Explorer, Documentarian)
● Ron Griswell (HBCUs Outside)
“I appreciate not simply the commitment that Granite Gear puts into alignment with the Pledge, but also the recognition of their starting place, the work that it requires, and their ability to move with it in ways that demonstrate actual outcomes, but also some dollops of fun.” —Jose Gonzalez, founder of Latino Outdoors
SOS Outreach is a non-profit pledge signatory working with young people in outdoor spaces.
From their pledge report:
“At SOS Outreach, we believe all youth belong. We redefine the outdoors as an inclusive space for discovery to foster community and develop skills that prepare our participants for a lifetime. Investing in an inclusive culture where all members of our team can show up as their full and authentic selves is how we continue the work that we have engaged in since our founding. We are dedicated to the outdoors being a place where everyone belongs.”
OUTSIDE PR: Client and Pro Bono Work
We talk about what companies can do outside of financial contributions to help with this work, Outside PR is offering such an opportunity. OutsidePR will seek out four BIPOC-owned brands and organizations to implement a three-month long PR pro bono for the 2023-2024 year. The goal is reaching the desired
demographic for the non-profit, organization and individual, and assist in fundraising or creating
awareness for their cause. To learn more about this opportunity, please see their Pledge report.