Mountain Equipment Co-op
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|Founded||Vancouver, British Columbia (1971)|
|Headquarters||Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada|
Number of locations
|David Labistour, CEO|
Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is a Canadian consumers' cooperative, which sells outdoor recreation gear and clothing exclusively to its members. MEC is notable for its commitment to environmental protection and other causes. As a co-op, MEC sells only to customers who hold a lifetime membership, which is technically a share and can be purchased by anyone for $5. MEC bills itself as Canada's largest supplier of outdoor equipment. Since its founding in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1971, MEC has expanded across Canada and now operates stores in sixteen cities. Once catering to mountaineers and climbers, MEC now targets a broader clientele. This is evidenced by changes in its marketing imagery, which historically focused on high level climbing and alpinist imagery. MEC has over 4.1 million members in Canada and internationally.
Members can shop at any of the seventeen retail stores, on-line, or on the phone. MEC also operates a "Corporate & Group Sales" store for large orders. Among MEC's largest "corporate" members are the military, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, parks agencies and various search and rescue organizations. MEC stores are often known for their use of eco-friendly design features. The Ottawa and Winnipeg stores were the first and second retail buildings in Canada to comply with Canada's C2000 Green Building Standard, which acknowledges buildings that achieve energy consumption 50% less than similar conventional structures.
The co-op designs and produces the majority of its gear although also carries products by many other well-known companies. A significant proportion of the company's inventory is manufactured in Asia although they also have nine contract factories in Vancouver. Furthermore, directed by the members, MEC fulfills its core purpose: inspire and enable everyone to lead active outdoor lifestyles. They accomplish this by selling outdoor gear, clothing, and services. MEC's head office and phone/service centre are located in Vancouver. Its distribution centre is located in Surrey, B.C.
Each year, every member of MEC has the opportunity to vote in the elections for its board of directors, as well as on "special resolutions", through a variety of methods. Before the election period, an information package with platforms of candidates and information on resolutions is distributed. Election results are announced at the annual general meeting.
In the 2013 elections, 21,515 members voted (97% online, 3% by phone, and 0.1% by mail). Given that MEC has around 4.1 million members (2014), this represents a voter turnout of significantly less than 1%.
Board of directors
Annual general meeting
Each April, MEC holds its annual general meeting in Vancouver. At this meeting, the Chief Executive Officer and other staff deliver their annual reports, and answer questions from co-op members. "Other resolutions" may also be brought forward and voted upon. The AGM is typically webcast and members who log in can ask questions, although they cannot vote. Typically, members recite their member numbers before speaking and these numbers are recorded in the official meeting transcript.
MEC has undertaken many initiatives in the name of attempting to fulfill its value of social responsibility, including:
- As a member of 1% for the Planet, MEC donates 1% of its gross revenue each year to conservation and outdoor activity causes. In 2013, this was an estimated $3 million.
- Is a member of the Fair Labor Association.
- MEC was the first Canadian retailer to publicly disclose its list of factories and their locations, and updates this list annually.
- In 2013 MEC became one of 20 companies globally to have its Responsible Sourcing program accredited by the Fair Labour Association.
- In May 2007 MEC became a bluesign member. After becoming a Bluesign member in 2007, MEC committed to a goal of sourcing 100% Bluesign approved fabrics by 2017. In 2012, 53% of MEC-brand apparel materials were Bluesign certified. Bluesign is a third party environmental, health and safety standard for the textiles industry.
- MEC has a commitment of 100 percent organic cotton for all MEC-branded apparel and sets yearly targets to increase its offering of products made from recycled materials.
- Operates a garment recycling program for polar fleece and polyester garments. This program has been discontinued as of January 2009 due to lack of use.
- In 2007 MEC launched its 'Ethical Sourcing Blog', which examines the relationships between MEC's supply chain and a variety of human rights issues.
- MEC promotes a variety of outdoor education opportunities to its membership via an online calendar of events service. Postings must be related to instructional, non-motorized wilderness activities or environmental initiatives.
- In December 2007, MEC became the first retailer in Canada to stop selling certain water bottles and food containers containing bisphenol A, a chemical used to make some plastics that has been linked in some studies to increased incidence of cancer and other diseases.
- In 2008, MEC eliminated all single-use bags from its stores.
- In 2010 MEC launched a new Green Building/Operating initiative called MEC GBS (Green Building Systems). The intention of the initiative is to ensure MEC retains its leadership in building and operating environmentally friendly facilities. Its Winnipeg, Longueuil, Burlington and North Vancouver stores and Montreal office received LEED Gold ratings. Its Winnipeg, Montreal, and Ottawa stores also comply with C2000 standards (Natural Resource Canada’s Advanced Commercial Buildings Program).
Among MEC's many business initiatives undertaken to better serve its members as well as secure long term financial sustainability are:
- In 1997 MEC introduced its popular (and free of charge) online gear swap where members can recycle used outdoor gear.
- The Fall 2007 launch of MEC’s new larger distribution centre in Surrey BC. This new distribution centre is the first “Green” LEED (Silver) accredited distribution centre in North America.
- In November 2008 MEC opened bicycle repair shops in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal stores. The Winnipeg and Burlington stores opened their repair shops in March 2009.
- In the summer of 2008 MEC developed and launched a series of annual national paddling and biking expositions appropriately named "MEC Paddlefest" and "MEC Bikefest". Billed as the most important date on the paddling or cycling enthusiast calendar these events promote all levels of participation in each activity and interesting enough although sponsored solely by MEC feature all MEC's major competition in each category. The Toronto MEC Paddlefest already rated as the second largest Paddling festival in North America as rated by participation.
MEC's growth has been slow and methodical over the last 30 years. During Peter Robinson's tenure as CEO from 2000 to 2007, the chain targeted one new store opening per year. With a 2007 sales target of almost a quarter of a billion dollars, MEC continues to look for new ways to fulfill its mission statement of "getting people outdoors".
By early 2004 MEC culture, sales and internal financial health was once again thriving, posting surpluses in excess of 5% of sales.
MEC has expanded across Canada as follows:
- Vancouver (site of the 1971 foundation)
- Calgary (since 1977)
- Toronto (downtown) (1985)
- Ottawa (1992)
- Edmonton (1998)
- Halifax (2001)
- Winnipeg (2002)
- Montreal (Marché Central) (2003)
- Quebec City (2004)
- North Vancouver (2004)
- Victoria (2006)
- Burlington (2008)
- Longueuil, Quebec (2009)
- Barrie, Ontario (2010)
- London, Ontario (2011)
- Montreal (Saint Denis Street boutique) (2012)
- Langley, British Columbia (2013)
- Toronto (North York) (2015)
In 2006 MEC began a national program of outdoor "festivals" in every MEC city across Canada. MEC Paddlefest was the first of these and billed itself as the most important date on the paddlers' calendar. In 2008, MEC Bikefest was launched in 6 cities and is now in every MEC city. MEC launched its third National Festival, MEC Snowfest, in all MEC cities during the winter of 2011.
MEC expanded assortments
From 2009-2011 MEC expanded its traditional back-country assortments to now include urban outdoor pursuits. Road running, bikes and yoga were successfully introduced and have now become a permanent mainstay of the assortment, and a significant component of MEC's branding focus.
In November 2009 MEC began selling MEC-branded bikes in seven stores: Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Burlington, Toronto, Montreal, and Longueuil. Currently MEC offers a total of 58 different models  including road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid and urban bikes. Some models feature geometry specific for women or kids. In 2012 MEC also began selling a selection of Ghost Bikes. Ridley bikes were added to the assortment in late 2013.
Motion to boycott Israeli goods
In April 2009, a motion was proposed by BC Teachers for Peace and Global Action (PAGE) to call for MEC to boycott Israeli-made products (MEC purchases seamless underwear and a hydration system for hikers and bikers from Israeli companies). PAGE argued: "MEC's members may not be aware of their organization's disturbing lack of concern for the human rights of Palestinians." The motion immediately caused controversy.
On 30 April 2009, at the chain's annual general meeting, the motion was rejected. The Canada-Israel Committee praised the outcome stating: "The policy of MEC has been upheld. It made sense, because it's not just about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but about ethical sourcing and MEC policy." Conversely, Hanna Kawas, chairman of the Canada Palestine Association, stated that his organization will continue to publicize the chain's sale of Israeli-made goods and called for a boycott of all Mountain Equipment Co-op outlets. Kawas stated: "(MEC) is supporting war crimes and apartheid. We will promote a boycott. It's a global movement that's gaining strength. We'll continue to do what South Africans did against apartheid."
On June 18, 2013 Mountain Equipment rebranded their logo, replacing the mountain with a green square containing the text "MEC" in bold.
- Mountain Equipment Co-Op Among Top 'Green' Retailers Worldwide. Newswise. 20 November 2009.
- "Members: What Matters and Why". Retrieved 2014-01-06.
- "KPI Voter Participation Rates". Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- "BOD Biographies". Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- "MEC looks within for its new CEO" (PDF). Media Release. Mountain Equipment Co-op. 4 December 2007.
- Grant, Jean (16 January 2014). "MEC’s new, uptown location gets one step closer to construction". Toronto Life. Archived from the original on 22 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
- Boycotting Israeli Apartheid. The Global Educator.
- O'Brian, Amy (2009-04-22). Outfitter urged to boycott Israeli goods. Canwest News Service (printed in the National Post), 22 April 2009. Retrieved from http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/story.html?id=1520281.
- Hill, Mary Frances. Mountain Equipment Co-op votes down Israel boycott. National Post. 1 May 2009.
- Hill, Mary Frances (2009-05-01). Mountain Equipment Co-op votes down Israel boycott. Canwest News Service (printed in the National Post), 1 May 2009. Retrieved from http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/story.html?id=1553265.
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