A recent national survey1 commissioned by MEC – Canada's go-to place for outdoor gear and know-how – shows that people of colour (POC) ...
A recent national survey1 commissioned by MEC – Canada's go-to place for outdoor gear and know-how – shows that people of colour (POC) spend more time and participate in a wider range of outdoor activities than white people. These findings run contrary to the prevailing belief that outdoor recreation is dominated by white people – a myth often perpetuated in outdoor industry imagery and marketing strategies.
The study2 measures the participation rates of 2,640 adults3, representative of the Canadian population, across 17 different outdoor activities, including jogging, hiking, camping and cycling. The findings are significant because, irrespective of activity, outdoor recreation is generally portrayed as a white domain in advertising and marketing.
Data findings reveal:
- Incidences of participation in outdoor activities are 8% higher among POC than white people.
- POC on average spend three more hours per week partaking in outdoor activities when compared with white people.
- POC are more likely than white people to participate in climbing (23% vs. 10%) and snow sports (17% vs. 10%).
- Three in ten POC (29%) jog or run compared to only under two in ten among white people (14%).
In an open letter to its members, MEC CEO David Labistour writes, "We can't move forward until we acknowledge our past. Historically, the models we've used in our catalogues and campaigns and on mec.ca have been predominantly white. And this imagery has perpetuated the vastly incorrect notion that people of colour in Canada don't ski, hike, climb or camp. This letter is about recognizing the role we've played in underrepresenting people of colour in the outdoors, and committing to change."
For MEC, diversity goes beyond advertising and brand imagery. With more than 5 million members and 2,500 employees, MEC is committed to becoming more inclusive and diverse at all levels of the organization.
Nahal Yousefian, who leads MEC's People Experience team, says, "Diversity and inclusiveness go hand in hand. Yet to be truly inclusive, it involves addressing unconscious biases, creating opportunities for advancement and celebrating the contributions and perspectives each individual is uniquely able to provide."
In September 2018, Labistour was the first Canadian CEO to sign the Outdoor Industry CEO Diversity Pledge. Administered through the Diversify Outdoors coalition, the pledge is guided by four principles:
- Hiring and supporting a diverse workforce and executive leadership
- Presenting representative marketing and advertising in the media
- Engaging and supporting broadly representative ambassador athletes
- Sharing our experiences with other leading brands
- Cultural diversity inclusion: Recruitment of qualified MEC board candidates with diverse cultural identities; engagement and support of internal Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee; pilot communications in languages other than English and French; partnerships with organizations that support diversity in the outdoors; commissioning of three short documentary films by leading Canadian filmmakers from diverse backgrounds including Escape, by Anjali Najar, Ziyóu (Freedom), by Goh Iromoto and Facing Sunrise, by Julia Kwan.
- LGBTQ2S+ inclusion: Queer competency training; safe space signage and gender-neutral bathroom signage; supportive gender-diverse transitioning protocol.
- Indigenous allyship: Tools to help avoid cultural appropriation; capturing insights from Indigenous staff; implementing land acknowledgements; partnerships with organizations supporting outdoor activity with Indigenous communities.
- Inclusion of people with disabilities: Internal accessibility audit; partnerships with organizations that support individuals with disabilities to be active outdoors.
To learn more about MEC's efforts and to read CEO David Labistour's open letter to MEC members, please visit mec.ca/diversity.
MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) is Canada's go-to place for outdoor gear, know-how and inspiration. Combining high-quality apparel and equipment with expert advice and firsthand experience, MEC supports a wide range of activities including camping, snowsports, watersports, cycling, climbing, hiking, running, yoga and travel. Established in 1971, MEC is Canada's largest consumer co-operative with over 5 million members across the country. A lifetime membership is available for $5. A strong backer of community initiatives, MEC has invested over $41 million and counting into non-profit organizations that support outdoor recreation and conservation. For more information, visit www.mec.ca and follow @mec, or visit one of our 23 stores nationwide.