Monumental Outrage: Patagonia, The North Face, REI Take On Trump

Outdoor brands wasted no time blasting President Donald Trump’s new executive order about America’s national monuments. Patagonia called the move hypocritical and challenged his authority regarding public lands. And the Outdoor Industry Association, in a letter signed by more than 100 outdoor companies — including Columbia Sportswear, REI, New Balance, Woolrich and the North Face — says it is “deeply concerned” about the order, which could potentially lead to rescinding and resizing national monuments, as well as opening them up for mining and drilling.

Patagonia has been girding its loins for Trump for some time. Last fall, it spent a reported $1 million running full-page ads urging people to “Vote for the Planet.” And it has been deeply involved in the controversy around the Bears Ears Monument in Utah — 1.35 million acres designated by former President Obama late last year. When Utah passed a resolution asking Trump to remove that designation in February, Patagonia pulled out of Outdoor Retailer, the OIA’s major trade show, protesting Utah’s “hostile” approach to the environment.

And last week, the company unveiled an ad about Bears Ears to run on PBS, as well as an extensive video and virtual reality film about the area, detailing its cultural significance, sport opportunities, with easy links to contact Ryan Zinke, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, to protest.

“Our national monuments were established after extensive public input because they provide unique and irreplaceable cultural, ecological, economic and recreational value worth protecting for our children and our grandchildren,” says Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario, in the company’s statement. “As stewards of America’s federal public lands, the Trump administration has an obligation to protect these most special wild places. Unfortunately, it seems clear they intend to do the opposite.”

While other brands might face some risk in such open opposition to Trump, “this is very consistent with Patagonia’s environmental leadership and the brand DNA,” says Eric Whan, director of the Toronto-based GlobeScan, a consultancy that specializes in sustainability. Patagonia, based in Ventura, Calif., has ranked in the top tier of its sustainability index since 2009, he tells Marketing Daily, “and they have such credibility that not speaking out against the executive order might be more risky.”

The OIA’s reaction focused on economics. “We are concerned about the narrative that the designation of national monuments has led to a loss of jobs and wages in surrounding communities,” says Amy Roberts, executive director of the trade group. “We believe the facts demonstrate the opposite story. Monuments, many of which have become National Parks, have created economic prosperity and jobs in local communities for decades. The vast majority of Americans value their National Parks and Monuments and want these lands protected.”

The order was signed shortly after the OIA presented its latest industry updates in Washington D.C., outlining the $887 billion in consumer spending outdoor recreation economy generates, and the industry’s support of 7.6 million American jobs.

Other brands issued individual responses quickly too: REI, called the order “a threat to the integrity of our public lands, which millions of Americans see as national treasures,” and says its engaging with members of both parties. And the North Face, an outdoor brand owned by VF Corp., posted distress on its site: “This is not a red or blue issue. It is an issue that affects our shared freedoms. Public lands should remain in public hands.”

While it’s hard to predict which brands might spark a Presidential debate, Whan doesn’t think Patagonia has anything to worry about. “This all fits together for Patagonia,” he says. “If a Twitter war ensues, Patagonia only stands to win.”
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