Outdoor Brands Stepping Up to Support Racial Equality and Social Justice

by Fitcoachion | Last Updated: June 20, 2020


The ongoing struggle for social justice and racial equality in the U.S. reached an inflection point with the May 25 police-killing of George Floyd. On the heels of other gut-wrenching examples of injustice in Black communities that included the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, plus the efforts of Amy Cooper to mischaracterize Central Park birdwatcher Christian Cooper to the NYPD, mass outrage against racial injustice has turned into organized action. Millions have marched globally in solidarity against police brutality. The voices for change are growing louder as the nation’s needs to reform institutionalized racism can no longer go ignored. And many brands in the outdoor space are joining the cause for change.

Though many gear and outfitting companies were hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic health crisis, many have stepped forward to speak out against racism and renew their commitment to Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI). Droves of outdoor companies, shops, athletes and journalists went “black” on their social media accounts and offered solidarity in the fight for racial equality. Others dug deep into their pocketbooks, offering serious financial support. Here are some of those outdoor brands who stepped up to both open their wallets, adding millions of dollars to the war chest for social justice, and to enact steps toward real, sustained change.

Ruffwear  Bend, OR
Dog-lovers know Ruffwer, but do they know about brand’s dedication social justice? Ruffwear is contributing $10,000 to Outdoor Afro, a nonprofit that connects Black people with nature and strives to create diverse leadership in the outdoors. Ruffwear believes that having access to the outdoors and a connection to nature is foundational to becoming a great leader—and that diversifying the outdoors will help change the face of leadership in the U.S. The brand has also signed the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, founded by Teresa Baker, to help hold companies accountable to become more inclusive and diverse, both internally and externally, in their visual and written content, their ambassador programs, and partnerships. Additionally, it has committed to internal training and education on privileges, biases, micro-aggressions, and more (with outside help from DEI experts).

 

Club Ride Apparel  Sun Valley, ID
Club Ride, the bike lifestyle clothing brand famous for its social conscience, has donated $20,000 to be allocated among three charities: Equal Justice Initiative, to bring about criminal justice reform, the Bahati Foundation, to empower kids through bikes, and to Conscious Kid, a group dedicated to reducing bias and promoting positive identity development in youth (more info).

 

BUFF  Santa Rosa, CA
Maker of the multi-purpose headwear that’s become so handy during the COVID-19 crisis, BUFF has pledged $10,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund starting this fiscal year. The brand has also announced the immediate development of an internal DEI Team. The brand says it will seek out Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders as consultants for this new committee.

 

Black Diamond Equipment  Salt Lake City
Known for climbing gear, skis and packs, Black Diamond has committed to spending $250,000 to support people of color in the outdoors. This will include direct financial support of BIPOC athletes, as well as new partnerships and initiatives.

Brooks Running  Seattle
Over the last several years, Brooks has focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. The brand signed the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, and is committed to diversifying its staff and leadership, as well as being representative in marketing and advertising, and engage and supporting diverse ambassadors and athletes. But Brooks didn’t stop there. The brand is making a $250,000 donation to the Equal Justice Initiative and seeking ways to have a meaningful effect on race and equity through ongoing corporate responsibility programs.

 

Burton  Burlington, VT
The pioneering snowboard brand is known for its commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility. To help further the cause of racial equality and social justice, and to show the brand’s solidarity with the Black community, Burton has donated $100,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense fund, and reports that there is more long-term action to come.

 

Danner  Portland, OR
Danner representatives report that during the past weeks, the brand has been listening and learning. In order to express its sorrow for, and solidarity with George Floyd’s family, friends and the Black community, Danner wants to help in the fight against racism and social injustice toward people of color. To emphasize that change starts from within, the brand is focusing on education and action in its community. It is matching employee donations to Urban League of Portland and Self Enhancement, Inc., and invites the public to join the cause. If people direct message Danner with a receipt, it will match donations up to $25,000 for a total of $50,000.

 

Specialized  Morgan Hill, CA
Specialized Bicycle Components will be investing $10M over the next three years to its public nonprofit OUTRIDE, whose mission is to build the next generation of riders through school and youth development programs, as well as providing access to safe places to ride for underserved and underrepresented communities and children. Additional funding will go to the Legion of Los Angeles Elite Cycling Team to further its work of increasing diversity and encouraging inclusion in cycling. SBC is committed to further elevating and amplifying BIPOC voices, stories, and narratives from our community or riders, athletes, and ambassadors.

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‌The North Face ‌ Denver ‌ ‌
Over the past two years, The North Face has donated more than $1.5 million dollars through its Explore Fund to organizations fostering equality in the outdoors. But the brand wants to do more. Moving forward, the Explore Fund will focus solely on addressing and eliminating barriers that prevent safe exploration, with the goal of creating access for all. It also pledged $25,000 to the brand’s long-term partner Outdoor Afro, the leading organization for Black connections and leadership in nature. Another $25,000 went to PMG ONE, the brand’s partner that centers Black, Indigenous, and people of color to lead movements for environmental justice and collective liberation. The North Face is also donating $50,000 to the ACLU to support its work on police accountability, racial justice and defending the right to protest (more info on the efforts).

GirlVentures Outdoor Climbing The North Face
GirlVentures Outdoor Adventure and Personal Enrichment Programs was a recipient of The North Face Explore Fund grant. Courtesy The North Face

Velocio Apparel  Londonderry, NH
Since its inception in 2014, Velocio has had a commitment to sustainable sourcing, biodegradable packaging, and support of public lands. The company has upped its social responsibility commitment by looking for ways to fight racism and to engage more Black cyclists in hiring and strive for more diversity in hiring. It also donated $15K to the ACLU, an organization it has supported in the past through the brand’s UNITY project, and $15K to Black Lives Matter.

 

HOKA ONE ONE   Goleta, CA
HOKA, and its family of brands at Deckers, united to make a donation of $500,000 to the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the ACLU Foundation, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Black Lives Matter Foundation, and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University.

 

Feetures  Charlotte, NC
Feetures CEO sent out a recent email to its subscribers and posted the same letter on its blog announcing its stance on no longer remaining silent in the face of racial injustice and recommitting to taking meaningful action throughout the company working together with employees, partners and customers to address diversity and eradicate racism. As part of this statement, it stated that as a first small step, it will donate $10,000 to the NAACP and Black Lives Matter.

 

Twin Six  Minneapolis
Twin Six is donating 100 percent of the sales of its June T-shirt of the month (a BLM/ “Stronger Together” design) to support local food shelves around Minneapolis as well as the ACLU. The brand stated that every dollar spent will be paid forward to support local food shelves serving the neighborhoods immediately affected by the protests in and around Minneapolis, as well as the ACLU.

 

Columbia Sportswear Co.  Portland, OR
Tim Boyle is committed to social justice. First, the Columbia CEO gave up most of his salary to help employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Then, in response to the George Floyd tragedy, he closed all 95 brick and mortar stores in observance of George Floyd’s memorial service (see more info on the effort here). The support didn’t stop there, after donations to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Marshall Project, he offered to double-match employee donations to a list of organizations outlined with additional resources at the bottom of this story.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

The murder of George Floyd was a tragedy, underpinned by the corrosive effects of institutional racism. That’s why today, June 4, 2020, we will close all of our North American stores for two hours during his memorial services. We stand against racism in all its forms, but in this moment, we want to be clear that we are proud to say BLACK LIVES MATTER. We are taking additional concrete actions to fight racism. It has taken a few days to research what we will do and how we will do it. We don’t have all of the answers, and listening is more important than talking, but here are some steps we will take. We will make donations to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Marshall Project to advance our country’s understanding of racism and its root causes and to promote equal justice and opportunity. We will follow the lead of our employees. When employees choose to make donations to 501[c]3 non-profits focused on addressing racism, we are offering to double match the contributions up to $1,000. We will help individuals and communities exercise the critical right to vote, along with others in our industry. We will continue to speak out and be a company that celebrates and encourages diversity. We are working to help end racial injustice. This includes the facilitation of education about racism within our own company, with ongoing events and dialogue. George Floyd’s life mattered.

A post shared by Columbia Sportswear (@columbia1938) on Jun 4, 2020 at 7:28am PDT

Smith Optics  Portland, OR
Smith launched a give-back program that will be an on-going initiative to supporting social justice, the dismantling of racism, and an environment of equality and inclusivity. From June 6-12, 10 percent profits from sales on smithoptics.com were donated to the NAACP. The organizations Smith supports will rotate periodically, and will be reflected/announced on its website and in digital ads.

 

Orvis  Manchester, VT
Orvis is asking everyone in the outdoor and angling communities to join them in expressing a commitment to combat racism of any kind, a willingness to engage in this conversation, and an obligation to create change and a more equitable fly-fishing culture, outdoor community and greater world. Orvis is working out specific next steps, but in the meantime is committed to amplifying the voices of those who need to be heard right now. Orvis will be participating in the #justaddwater campaign that you can read more about here. And, every Thursday in June, NRS, American Rivers and Orvis will be coming together for virtual film screenings and discussions with industry players on breaking down barriers in fly-fishing. On June 18, Orvis President Simon Perkins will be showing his own film, Una Razón para Pescar (A Reason to Fish), followed by a Q&A with #justaddwater guides, Orvis’s Simon Perkins, and Amy Kober from American Rivers and Katie Guerin from City Kids.

 

Conservation Lands Foundation  Durango, CO
The Conservation Lands Foundation is a nonprofit that protects places like Bears Ears. As a conservation organization working within a movement that has its own history with racism, CLF has re-doubled its commitments to dismantle systemic racism and to take action to create a just nation.

 

Igloo  Katy, Texas
Igloo released a statement standing with its “employees and community in recognizing social inequality in America,” making donations to the Greater Houston Black Chamber to foster business development and community partnership in the Houston African American Community and to the Center for the Healing of Racism.

 

CADEX  Taichung, Taiwan
Cadex makes some of the best wheels, seats and rims in the industry, and it has a strong social conscience. The brand is standing against racism, and working to foster awareness, action and inclusivity in cycling. As a start, CADEX’s parent company, Giant Group, will donate $20,000 to organizations fighting racism.

 

— In addition to Columbia’s efforts, it provided the list below of worthy organizations that are working on racial and social justice.

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund – Legal organization fighting for racial justice
The Marshall Project – Nonprofit journalism about criminal justice
ACLU Foundation – Public interest law firm defending civil rights
Southern Poverty Law Center – Racial justice advocacy and hate group monitoring
National Urban League – Civil rights organization
Campaign Zero– Eliminating police brutality
Black Lives Matter– Racial justice
Color of Change: –Racial justice
Equal Justice Initiative – Justice reform and advocacy
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) – Educating white folks to be better allies