Retailers and brands joined the Outdoor Industry Association in slamming President Donald Trump’s move on Wednesday to review national monument designations under Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Outdoor retailer REI said in a statement that it’s working with leaders of both parties to preserve the designations, noting OIA research released this month showing that outdoor recreation supports 7.6M sustainable American jobs, nearly $900 billion in consumer spending and $125 billion in tax revenue. Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario on Wednesday took a less conciliatory tone, saying the White House had no such authority and threatening legal action.
The retailers were roiled by Trump’s executive order instructing the U.S. Department of the Interior to review all Presidential designations made since 1996 that affect more than 100,000 acres, which suggested that some of the designations may have been made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.
Trump’s national monument review order this week — presumably one of the accomplishments the president hopes to point to as an achievement of his first 100 days — affects 30 national monuments designated from Jan. 1, 1996 through the end of 2016, beginning with the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument designated in 1996 and ending with Bears Ears National Monument designated in late 2016. In it, Trump asks for an interim report within 45 days and a final report within 120 days.
Patagonia’s shot across the bow this week, particularly its vow to take the White House to court if need be, was an unusually combative position for a retail business.
“A president does not have the authority to rescind a National Monument,” Marcario wrote in a statement published on the company’s website Wednesday. “An attempt to change the boundaries ignores the review process of cultural and historical characteristics and the public input. We’re watching the Trump administration’s actions very closely and preparing to take every step necessary, including legal action, to defend our most treasured public landscapes from coast to coast.”
She also urged activism, saying that outdoor enthusiasts should make phone calls, comment at town hall meetings, visit legislators’ offices and contact Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to “express outrage.”
But if strong words were once unusual for brands, which often try to avoid taking sides in order to appeal to as broad a swath of consumers as possible, that has increasingly shifted in recent years, marketing experts told Retail Dive. A 2016 study by policy and communications firm Global Strategy Group found that 84% of Americans believe that businesses have a responsibility to bring social change on important issues, 79% agreed that corporations can succeed at business while also taking a stance on an important issue and 72% believe taking a stance on important issues can help a company’s bottom line.
“There is no longer a disconnect — at least in the public mindset — between driving profit and doing ‘good,’” Tanya Meck, partner and co-lead at Global Strategy Group’s Corporate Impact project, said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive. “This has incredible implications for companies’ [corporate social responsibility] programs.”
Indeed, expect the Trump age to increasingly force retailers to recognize that "being political" goes beyond issues like safety in overseas factories, environmental sustainability and human rights, retail futurist Doug Stephens told Retail Dive earlier this year.
“We live in a world where retailers are finding themselves having to become more politically responsive — whether they like it or not,” he told Retail Dive in an email. “Few issues, however, have been as as polarizing as Trump-branded merchandise. And just as America is divided what to make of the Trumps, it appears equally conflicted on how brands and retailers have chosen to respond to them. While some consumers applaud moves by TJ Maxx, Starbucks and Nordstrom, others propose to boycott the retailers themselves.”