Patagonia jacket close-up
(Photo: Getty)
Outside Business Journal

Outdoor Industry Winner of the Month: September 2022

We're shouting out one company a month for outstanding business savvy

Steve Larese headshot

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We’re picking companies every month that have impressed us with their recent business savvy—whether through a new product release, a canny marketing move, a grabby social-media post, social and environmental issues or something else entirely that we didn’t see coming. The goal: to celebrate the forward thinkers, outside-the-box strategists, and generally awesome professionals moving the outdoor industry forward.

So, with a pencils-on-desk drumroll, here are September’s picks.

Winner: Patagonia

Patagonia founder and owner Yvon Chouinard made international headlines in September when he announced that he was giving away his $3 billion company to help protect the environment. Chouinard and his family have placed control of the company’s direction into a trust and created a new 501(c)(4) nonprofit that will receive all profits not reinvested in the business and spend them on environmental causes. That charitable sum is estimated to reach $100 million a year.

In establishing the new corporate structure, Chouinard and his family have ensured that Patagonia’s mission of being in business to “save our home planet” continues for generations to come.

Runner-Up: REI with Outdoor Afro Inc.

Last month, REI and Outdoor Afro Inc. launched a co-created line of outdoor clothing designed to “celebrate the nature in all of us.” The Outdoor Afro Inc. + REI Co-op Hike Collection features clothing and footwear in sizes, colors, and graphics that celebrate and encourage everyone to enjoy the outdoors comfortably and stylishly.

“Black people have always spent time outside across a variety of activities, but the community has always felt a gap in finding gear that fits, functions well, feels good, and represents their personal style,” said Rue Mapp, the founder of Outdoor Afro Inc., a for-profit group that collaborates with companies on design, marketing, and sales. “REI was the right partner to listen deeply and help us create a collection that would start to meet those needs.”

Woman wearing a colorful fleece jacket
REI’s new collection with Outdoor Afro Inc. celebrates the “nature in all of us.” (Photo: REI)

Mapp began the nonprofit Outdoor Afro (distinct from Outdoor Afro Inc.) in 2010 to encourage all people to get outside and enjoy nature. As part of her new joint venture with REI, Mapp unveiled Outdoor Afro Inc., which is now working to design and bring to market a variety of outdoor gear aimed at making the industry more inclusive.

Runner-Up: The North Face

The North Face also announced last month that, from now on, it’s calling all of its fleece products High Pile Fleece and discontinuing the name “Sherpa” in its designs.

“For decades, The North Face and the broader textile and fashion industries have used the term Sherpa to describe fleece material,” The North Face said in a statement. “But Sherpa is not an adjective; it is a term used to describe the Sherpa people—a group with a rich cultural heritage and an integral role in the world of mountaineering.”

The North Face High Pile Nuptse Jacket
The new North Face High Pile Nuptse jacket, which no longer includes the “Sherpa” name (Photo: Courtesy The North Face)

The former Sherpa name referred to the thick fleece that resembled the wool outers commonly worn by members of the Sherpa community, famous for their heroic mountaineering deeds in summiting (and helping others summit) Mount Everest and the planet’s other highest peaks.

While the use of the term was intended as a respectful nod to the Sherpa culture and its contributions to mountaineering, The North Face said it recognizes that many of its customers remain unaware of who the Sherpa people are and of their contributions and sacrifices to exploration. Alongside the name change, The North Face is also launching a campaign designed to celebrate and educate its customer base about the Sherpa culture and highlight the accomplishments of the Sherpa community, including The North Face athlete team member Dawa Sherpa.