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Inspiration Through Disruption: #OptOutside with REI’s Alex Thompson

Welcome to Purpose 360.

We’re thrilled to make our debut, and even more so because our first guest is celebrating the fourth anniversary of one of the most disruptive and successful social purpose campaigns: REI’s #OptOutside.

But first, you might want to know a little about us. Purpose 360, hosted by Carol Cone and Chris Noble, unlocks the power of social purpose to ignite business and social impact. Why listen to us? Carol created the field of social purpose in the 1980s, linking Rockport with the walking movement – creating a billion-dollar retail category while inspiring people to walk for fitness and health. Chris is a digital and cause marketing savant, having created leading campaigns for brands and NGOs, raising $150 million for causes. Every week, we’ll speak with the leading minds and practitioners of social purpose from Fortune 500 companies, social enterprises, and world-changing non-profits to answer the question: What’s your purpose?

Back to REI: one of our favorite purpose-driven brands. We were honored to speak with Alex on the eve of #OptOutside’s fourth year, and encourage you to spend some time in nature while listening to this episode. Here are our favorite insights from Alex:

  • Align on a really clear, focused societal goal: for REI, that’s “leaving the outdoors better than we found it.” Social purpose initiatives, especially when operationalized throughout the business, can be multi-faceted and complex. Keeping the end goal simple and compelling will serve as a north star for all the moving parts.
  • Need inspiration? Find a challenge your organization is uniquely equipped to address. REI found that 50% of people in the US aren’t going outdoors once a year for outdoor recreation. That 50% of people are unlikely to shop at REI and unlikely to experience the mental and physical health benefits of the outdoors. REI embraced that staggering statistic, putting the full force of the company’s purpose behind it through #OptOutside and other community engagement initiatives. And they are beginning to turn the tide.
  • Never forget where you came from. REI was founded as a co-op by a husband and wife with a passion for nature. The company remains a co-op, giving every customer the opportunity to buy into the company and its mission. That’s a powerful asset that REI was a steward of throughout the company’s massive growth. The customer has always come first.

To hear more from Alex Thompson, including how the brand inspired more than 15 million people to go outside on the country’s biggest shopping day, we invite you to listen to our debut episode today.

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Business is an unlikely hero: a force for good working to solve society's most pressing challenges, while boosting bottom line. This is social purpose at work. And it's a dynamic journey.

Purpose 360 is a masterclass in unlocking the potential of social purpose to ignite business and social impact. We illuminate the growing impacts of purpose, from engaging employees and fostering deeper consumer loyalty to inspiring product innovation and increasing market share.