In the near future, REI will only sell products that are entirely free of PFAS, the harmful category of chemicals. That’s the news from the Washington-based retailer, which announced Tuesday new product standards for itself and its thousand-plus brand partners.
REI’s new rules will require its suppliers to cut all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from all cookware, apparel, shoes, packs, and similar gear. It’s a planned phase-out of all remaining products with the chemicals. Its deadline? Fall 2024.
That’s in addition to REI’s existing PFAS restrictions, which ended the sale of gear containing long-chain PFAS, and banned the chemicals entirely in ski wax and clothing treatments.
Suppliers of “all remaining textile products” in its retail line — items like heavy-duty rain jackets — will have until 2026 to phase out the chemicals.
PFAS include over 9,000 human-made chemicals with nonstick and water-repellent properties that is widespread in consumer products. A wide range of outdoor clothing, pots and pans, and firefighting foam all contain PFAS. Also called “forever chemicals,” they won’t break down naturally. Studies have detected PFAS in the bloodstream of 97 percent of Americans, and wild animal species all over the planet.
The broader health implications PFAS introduce are still under debate. But studies have already linked the chemicals to many health problems, including cancer and liver damage.
REI’s Product Standards: The Details
REI first introduced its Product Standards model in 2018 as a self-audit of its environmental impacts. With a 2020 update, the company said it wanted to address its partner brands’ “carbon reduction, inclusive marketing practices and cultural designs in the products they make and sell to REI.”
In addition to “alignment” with state laws that increasingly restrict PFAS, updates to the company’s standards this year include:
- Elevated expectations requiring brands to measure their greenhouse gas emissions and set targets for emissions reduction. (REI has set its own emissions reduction target via the Science Based Targets initiative.)
- New expectations to advance equity across products, like price equity across size ranges and inclusive sizing.
To help its brand partners meet the new rules, REI will provide “resources and engagement opportunities” in support. Workshops, guidance documentation, partnerships with the Outdoor Industry Association’s Climate Action Corps, “and more” are on the table.
“The standards keep the co-op and over 1,000 of our brand partners accountable,” REI Vice President of Product Chris Speyer said. “The products we carry represent our greatest opportunities to support better ways of doing business. We want our members and customers to know the products they purchase at REI are helping to build a better retail industry.”
REI is the largest consumer co-op in the US, with 21.5 million members. REI operates 181 stores in 42 states and the District of Columbia.