November 16, 2016 BestCompaniesAZ

REI’s #OptOutside Movement Grows… And Their Employer Brand Benefits

By Jocelyn Cook | @JocelynGCook 

What appeared to be a surprising, almost shocking, move last year – a major U.S. retailer closing their doors on Black Friday and paying all their employees to go enjoy the great outdoors – has grown into a movement and given outdoor retailer REI a new voice. It also has strengthened their employer brand.

We discussed REI’s move last year as it thrust their award winning employer brand into the spotlight, with many questioning why they would give up what many call the “biggest shopping day of the year”? Would this be their downfall?

And what did this bold move do for REI’s employer brand? Contrary to skeptics it had a very positive impact! As one of only 12 companies who has been on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list since it first launched in 1998, REI moved up from #58 in 2015 to #26 this year!

Additionally, REI won advertising and PR awards this past year for this bold and creative move. For this second year of #OptOutside, millions are joining in on the movement, with hundreds of partners coming on board as well.

A few of the partners include the National Parks Service, which is a natural fit. But a unique partner is Subaru America, who has committed to provide a fleet of vehicles in New York so dog owners can take their pets out of the mayhem of shopping in the city out to various nature spots.  Google is committing to work with REI to support outdoor-focused non-profits in Seattle and Austin.

The #OptOutside campaign was purposeful action of what REI believes as a company. “What #OptOutside did for us as an organization was to get [REI] more comfortable stepping into cultural spaces – to get more comfortable stepping into controversy, and to get more comfortable stepping into the importance in the role of the outdoors in making the world a better place,” said Ben Steele, REI’s Chief Creative Officer at the 2016 AD Age Brand Summit in Los Angles.

A positive company culture and employee-centered focus have been a hallmark of REI for years. If your organization offers a great place to work and you want to be recognized for it, a good place to start is with our local azcentral Top Companies to Work for in Arizona program. Nominations are open now. You may not start a national movement, but you’ll shine a spotlight on your own company here in Arizona!