Mountain Equipment Co-op
|Founded||Vancouver, BC (1971)|
|Headquarters||Vancouver, BC, Canada|
|Number of locations||17|
|Key people||David Labistour, CEO|
Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is a Canadian consumers' cooperative, which sells outdoor recreation gear and clothing to its members exclusively. 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 fifteen cities. Once catering to mountaineering/climbers, MEC now targets a wider outdoor audience. This is evinced by changes in its marketing imagery, which historically focused on high level climbing and alpinist imagery. MEC has over 3.3 million members in Canada and internationally.
- 1 Organization
- 2 Values
- 3 Growth
- 4 MEC festivals
- 5 MEC expanded assortments
- 6 MEC bikes
- 7 Motion to boycott Israeli goods
- 8 MEC rebranding
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 External links
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 at discounted prices. Among MEC's best "corporate" members are the military, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, parks agencies and various search and rescue organizations. In addition, 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 a 50% reduction in energy consumption over conventional structures.
MEC distinguishes itself from other outdoor retailers through its eco-friendly product line and intensive focus on corporate social responsibility. The company is noted for their ethical sourcing, labour commitments, co-operative structure and innovation in sustainability. 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 six contract factories in Vancouver. Furthermore, directed by the members, MEC fulfills its core purpose: to help people enjoy the benefits of self-propelled wilderness-oriented recreation. 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 "ordinary 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 2007 elections, 14,996 members voted online, 2,510 members voted by phone, and 201 members voted by mail. Given that MEC has around 2.9 million members (2007), 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. "Special resolutions" may also be brought forward and voted upon. In 2007, up to 50 members could attend via teleconference. Additionally, the AGM was webcast on the Internet and in the Calgary and Toronto stores. Typically, members recite their member numbers before speaking and these numbers are recorded in the official meeting transcript.
MEC describes its mission as follows:
|“||Mountain Equipment Co-op provides quality products and services for self-propelled wilderness-oriented recreation, such as hiking and mountaineering, at the lowest reasonable price in an informative, respectful manner. We are a member-owned co-operative striving for social and environmental leadership.||”|
The co-op also has codified a purpose, a vision, and values which express similar sentiments of self-propelled recreation and environmental responsibility.
MEC has undertaken many initiatives in the name of attempting to fulfill its value of social responsibility, including the following:
- As a member of 1% for the Planet, MEC donates 1% of its gross revenue each year to environmental causes. In 2007, this was "an estimated $2 million".
- Is a member of the Fair Labor Association.
- In May 2007 MEC became a bluesign member. Bluesign is a third party environmental, health and safety standard for the textiles industry.
- 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.
- Is a founding member along with CPAWS of 'The Big Wild', an online initiative to protect 50% of Canada's wild spaces.
- 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 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.
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 (1985)
- Ottawa (1992)
- Edmonton (1998)
- Halifax (2001)
- Winnipeg (2002)
- Marche Central , Montreal (2003)
- Quebec City (2004)
- North Vancouver (2004)
- Victoria (2006)
- Burlington (2008)
- Longueuil, Quebec (2009)
- Barrie, Ontario (2010)
- London, Ontario (2011)
- Saint Denis Boutique - Montreal Quebec (2012)
- Langley, BC (summer 2013)
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.
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 19 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.
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 iconic mountain with a green square containing the text "MEC" in bold. 
- Mountain Equipment Co-Op Among Top 'Green' Retailers Worldwide. Newswise. 20 November 2009.
- "About Mountain Equipment Co-op". Retrieved 2010-02-22.
- Made in Canada - As Long as We Don't Have to Make It http://blog.mec.ca/2008/02/its-ironic-we-w.html
- "Election Results". Retrieved 2007-05-23.
- "BOD Biographies". Retrieved 2010-02-22.
- "MEC Annual General Meeting". Retrieved 2007-05-23.
- "MEC Charter". Retrieved 2007-05-23.
- "MEC looks within for its new CEO". Media Release. Mountain Equipment Co-op. 4 December 2007.
- 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mountain Equipment Co-op.|
- Official website
- 'Reach' MEC's 2007 Accountability Report MEC's second Accountability Report, which outlines the social, environmental, and economic impacts of its business activities
- MEC's ethical sourcing blog
- The Big Wild blog Founded by MEC and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS)