Footwear and apparel manufacturer On has won REI’s overall 2023 Vendor Partner of the Year award. In a statement last week, REI said the award is presented to brands that “make a significant impact, inspire, and enable a life outside for everyone.”
On, with a U.S. base in Portland, Oregon, was selected for its all-around excellence and impact. “By marrying style, comfort and functional performance, On continues to bring compelling, functional innovation to REI and attracts customers of all ages and backgrounds to running and hiking season after season. On is a values-driven company, leading the industry in sustainable footwear innovation and development.”
REI also lauded several of On’s sustainability efforts, including its Cleancloud technology, which captures carbon and ferments it, then turns it into EVA foam for midsoles, and its Cyclon shoe program which manufactures shoes out of castor beans.
“Our vendors and their offerings play a vital role in keeping REI relevant to the consumer and our members,” said Chris Speyer, REI senior vice president and chief merchandising officer. “It’s always a challenge to select one partner as our vendor of the year, but for 2023 On stood out for being one of the fastest growing brands in footwear, and its commitment to empowering more people to get outside to run and hike.
“Most importantly, we’re excited about On’s continued enthusiasm to bring industry-disrupting innovation and sustainability efforts to our customers all while continuing to be collaborative and agile through variable market conditions.”
In addition to the overall award, companies are nominated by the co-op’s four merchandising divisions – action sports, camp, apparel, and footwear and basics – for partnering with REI to meet customer needs, raising the bar for product quality, and driving sustainable business practices.
- Footwear and basics: Danner. REI cited the company’s longevity and its “find your own path” mantra. It also highlighted the company’s Recrafting program which encourages customers to send their boots in to be resoled and refurbished.
- Camp: Exped. REI noted the company’s value driven approach to ensuring comfortable sleep outside, along with its commitment to using recycled materials and “improving its manufacturing process across development.”
- Action sports: Quality Bicycle Products. REI cited QBP’s history of inspiring and enhancing the bicycling experience, its certification as a B Corporation, and its vision of “Every Butt on a Bike.”
- Apparel: Smartwool. Overall REI 2018 Vendor Partner of the Year award winner and nine-time divisional winner, REI noted that Smartwool continues to innovate with inclusive designs and sustainability efforts, highlighting its ‘Second Cut’ circular and recycled sock program.
New this year, REI will donate $500 on behalf of each divisional category winner, and $1,000 on behalf of the overall vendor partner of the year to its REI Cooperative Action Fund. REI launched the public charity fund in 2021 to “create a more equitable outdoors by bringing together the collective strength of the co-op community.”