REI Cuts Down on Fabric

Here’s a look at how REI assessed its supply chain efforts and became more sustainable while saving money.

By Lorna Caputo November 4, 2016

To REI, product sustainability means understanding, considering and managing the long-term social, environmental and economic impacts associated with the products it sells. As one of the leading outdoor specialty retailers, the majority of products REI sells don’t fall under the company’s private brand label, and so the company works to inspire, educate and collaborate on best practices with many of the outdoor companies whose products they carry. With its own private label, REI works to reduce the environmental impact its apparel has on the environment.

REI was directly involved in creating some of the Higg Index tools and then putting them to good use. REI’s product designers used OIA’s Higg Index Product Module to assess 24 of REI’s branded apparel products in 2013. The results showed a number of opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of these products. The company began by shifting to fabric suppliers that have environmental certifications, adding more recycled content and transitioning to more environmentally sensitive garment washes.

The design team then used OIA’s Higg Index Product Module as a guide to improve fabric yields. The fabric yield or “marker efficiency” is the amount of raw material that gets incorporated in the final product after the fabric is cut and sewn.  For example, the designers of the Sahara Men’s line of hiking products were able to reduce the fabric consumption by 4,000 yards through small changes to the design patterns. This provided both environmental and economic savings.

REI hopes its success stories will inspire and help others push the industry forward in utilizing more environmentally-friendly business practices so future generations can enjoy the outdoors that we know now and love.

Part 1: KEEN’s Supply Chain Detox

Part 2: prAna Becomes a Polybag Hero