The outdoor industry has a long way to go to become more Just, Equitable, Diverse, and Inclusive (JEDI). In recognition of this, Outdoor Gear Exchange has been committed to making our business more welcoming and inclusive to others to do our part to lower existing barriers to the outdoors for folks who historically have not been included.
We strive to treat our customers as friends and work to educate and advise rather than push a sale. OGE has been working for years to take on issues surrounding women’s empowerment and equality, being open and welcoming to the LGBTQIA+ community, and expanding access and awareness to the outdoors. We continue to seek ways to improve as a business in and as a part of the outdoor industry to promote awareness and focus on addressing barriers preventing many BIPOC from enjoying the outdoors.
Diversity Lead Position
We recently hired a Diversity Lead position for our business to help guide us through this important work. We recognize that addressing racial inequalities does not happen overnight and therefore have elected to create a position that could focus on leading our JEDI efforts. The Diversity Lead has set both long term and short term JEDI goals and will work with our leadership team, across departments, and with others in the outdoor community to help facilitate positive change.
Mandatory Staff Training
During our annual staff retreat in 2019, we had a panel focused on addressing issues of diversity in the outdoor industry. There was a breakout session focused on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion that allowed staff to voice their concerns and offer potential insight and solutions to existing problems. Based on these discussions, we implemented mandatory diversity training internally for all staff in 2020 (before the pandemic). These consultant-led sessions touched on topics of diversity and inclusion with the goal to establish a foundation of knowledge for our company and to allow staff members to have resources moving into Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work.
Development of an employee resource group for BIPOC staff
The purpose of this group is to provide a supportive space for our staff of color to discuss any issues, concerns, and/or ideas they may have related to JEDI work within the organization’s many departments and the industry as a whole. This group is new, but has already contributed greatly toward providing many ideas and input on OGE’s efforts in JEDI work.
Ongoing JEDI Education
We encouraged our leadership team and human resources department to read both White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and Black Faces, White Spaces by Carolyn Finney in an effort to increase awareness on issues of diversity and inclusion and to promote staff to seek education on the topics and how they relate to the outdoor industry and OGE as a part of a global society.
We are also compiling a library of books focused on DEI available for staff to read and developing a document with resources on topics of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion ranging from books, podcasts, articles, and more.
We are in the process of reviewing our business policies and making adjustments to integrate Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion into the structure and fabric of our company. This includes reimagining our mission and vision statements to ensure they have a DEI focus and that the language is welcoming and encompassing for all. This will inform future work on our core values and 10-year strategic plan and allow us to incorporate Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as part of our culture and values as well as other aspects of our business.
Better Representation in Our Advertising
We have a new focus on using brand assets featuring BIPOC in social media, email, print, and website advertising after realizing that almost all images previously used were not truly inclusive and not representative of who recreates and enjoys the outdoors. We have and will continue to add more images of BIPOC staff and models in displays featured around our store with the goal to steer away from the single story of media in the outdoors and to be more representative of BIPOC folks.
We are planning several photoshoots with BIPOC models in the coming months to increase diversity in our own library of marketing photography as well. These photoshoots will cover skiing, climbing, camping, hiking, paddling, and more.
We have goals to better share the voices and perspectives of underrepresented individuals and groups in the outdoors through our social media channels. We have designated, at minimum, one day a week for our social media posts to focus on JEDI topics and elevate the voices of BIPOC/LGBTQ folks in the outdoors. The purpose is to amplify the narratives of historically excluded groups and bring attention to ongoing industry efforts to become better allies.
Everyone's Wilderness Fundraisers
OGE’s goal from day one has been to encourage folks to get outside — regardless of their experience. We want to take this mission to the next level and focus our efforts on increasing access to the outdoors for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other historically excluded communities.
These fundraisers will support New England-based nonprofits and organizations (or national organizations with a Vermont or New England chapter) focused on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the outdoors. This could be a center that supports LGBTQ+ folks that needs funding for their monthly hiking and biking events, or a new club that supports BIPOC participation in rock climbing that needs some funding to start-up.
Changes to Our Charitable Grant Fund Criteria
We have adjusted the application criteria for our Charitable Grant Fund to include organizations that support diversity in the outdoors. We are committing to awarding 50% of available grants to these organizations.
Learn more about our Charitable Grant Fund here.
As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we are preparing to run a number of accessible events in 2021 for historically excluded groups:
- BIPOC mountain bike skills clinics and instructor opportunities
- Mountain bike maintenance 101
- Partnering with our local climbing gym to do BIPOC climbing events
- LGBTQ climbing nights with our local climbing gym
- LGBTQ exclusive shopping opportunities at our store
- Ski and snowboard tours with these groups
OGE is a member of the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance and is working with other local companies and organizations to address issues of diversity and inclusion here in Vermont. Through our membership, we seek to leverage our business and nonprofit connections around the state to promote and assist in positive change and increasing diversity within the Vermont outdoor community.
OGE sees Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion work as a long term commitment. We look forward to expanding the scope of this work, creating more structured mentorship programs, and working with our local community to create more opportunities for people with marginalized identities. We hope our contributions will help empower these folks to see and be themselves in the outdoors and to develop skills and self-confidence. We look forward to making continued concrete and measurable steps while continuing to learn more and work for a more just, equitable, visibly diverse and inclusive world and workplace.