March 5, 2009

Can You Give Back By Buying Gear?

This week I have had a lot on my mind after hearing more bad news about the economy and how this is impacting non-profit organizations. If you’re a regular reader or follow me on Twitter you know I am involved with the planning of The Women’s Wilderness Institute’s Gear and Cheer fundraising event. We have been very fortunate to have great support for the event as well as amazing organization like Kelty and Sierra Designs as 2009 sponsors for the educational programs. Also a new development from 2009 sponsor Mountain Hardware the Send a Kid to Camp program that is supporting TWWI and other organizations.

Between working to set-up the auction and receiving my REI dividend this week I have been thinking a lot about buying gear. As you’ll note from my previous blog, Gear on the Brain, my decision making was based on how much I can get with my coupon and dividend but then I took a step back. I realized I shop at REI because I like supporting their amazing Stewardship Program. So what if I based my brand decisions on something greater? In a time when corporations are cutting their charity budgets how can I show them my support? Easy, show it with my dollars. Buy from organizations that give back.

I took a bit of time to research the brands I already use and figure out what they’re doing to make an impact. After visiting companies’ websites and learning more I have discovered they break down into three major areas: Non-Profit Partnerships, Environmental Impact, and Event Sponsors.

The Non-Profit Partners

Since I am considering purchasing quickdraws by Black Diamond, let’s start with them. This organization supports a lot of regional and national organizations. As with most of these corporations their entire list of philanthropic contributions is too large to list but to name a few Black Diamond is supporting the Access Fund, American Alpine Club, and HERA’s Climb for Life.

The North Face also has an impressive list of partners. One organizations of note is which focuses on supporting “high quality grassroots social and economic development projects around the world” by matching donors with community based projects.

While some may not consider Clif Bars and Luna Bars gear we can all agree we need nourishment when were on the go. These companies focus on sustainability with their own product development as well as partner with great organizations like International Mountain Bike Association and American Whitewater but they also have a unique way of connecting to the community. Clif Bar aims to get more people biking than commuting by car particularly when traveling within a 2 mile radius. Check out the 2 Mile Challenge!

Environmental Impact

I knew that Patagonia did a lot on the local level to help the community but their global involvement is impressive on a much different level. Not only is the Patagonia distribution center in Reno, NV LEED Certified but they’re developing a rainforest in Chile, distributing Environmental Grants, and have the Common Threads Garment Recycling Program.

Another heavy hitter in global environmental impact is Mammut. Climbers in particular will be interested in the Kirgistan Mountain Project where Mammut has set-up fixed ropes for climbing, helped refurbish base camp, and is developing a mountain guide training program. In addition Mammut has climate-neutral ropes but offsetting their production expenditures by partnering with

Event and Athlete Sponsors

Many brands including some of those listed above sponsor elite athletes, like 5Ten, helping to support some of the top names in climbing. Some organizations are known more for their sponsorship of events. Tubbs Snowshoes for example sponsors the Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer and Winter Trail Days. Marmot has also been linked to some great events like “Going to the Dogs” in Estes Park which supports local No Kill animal shelters.

So there you have it. While this is in no way a comprehensive list I hope it gives you a starting point when looking at how your gear dollars can go further. If you have information on other brands and their impact please email me at or leave a comment.


Ryan said...

I couldn't agree more. As consumers we have the power, especially in this time of economic hardship when companies are practically begging for our business. By supporting companies that are philanthropic, posting blogs and making our voices heard we have strong leveraging power. Especially in this time of viral marketing, a lot of times we can speak directly to the company. eg. Twitter/facebook, MySpace, Blogs. Just look at Five Ten. Right after ABS Nationals there was a lot of talk of climbing companies not marketing very well. Well, less then a month later Five Ten has a viral marketing contest on Twitter. I don't even wear Five Tens but I am a fan of the company because they are on the ball. Granted this isn't philanthropy but it is an example of a company listening to consumers. Times are changing and we are in control.

Tali said...

GREAT POV Ryan! Thanks for your thoughts!

Zsolt said...

OK, you might jump at me for this one, but... I think a lot of companies are overdoing the carbon emission thing. It's not that reducing co2 emission is not important - it is. But - according to most scientists, there are environmental issues 1000 times more urgent.

Donating to a fund that does co2 cleanup is becoming more and more popular among adventure travel companies for example. It's a real easy, evident way for companies to pose being green. Just PR.

With that in mind, we should value companies who are really making an impact and are actually commited to their projects deeper than just writing checks from time to time to ambigous funds - which is essentially the money you, as their customer have given them.

Didn't mean to be negative here, but we have to separate PR from real commitment. Your post is awesome.

Take care
Mountaineering Blog

Tali said...

Hey Dan,
Respectful open dialogue is always welcome! I agree that buying carbon credits is a PR move. If that's all a company does I don't really consider that "giving back". However I like that companies include it in the rest of their philanthropic projects.