Not just for white people: MEC CEO addresses lack of diversity in outdoor industry images

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      While the issue of whitewashing has been particularly focused on performance-based industries such as film and TV over the past few decades, concerns about the lack of diversity represented in imagery is also being addressed within outdoor communities and companies.

      A Vancouver-based outdoor equipment company has announced it is addressing the issue of whitewashing in the outdoor industry.

      Mountain Equipment Co-op CEO David Labistour posted an open letter today (October 22), entitled “Do white people dominate the outdoors?”, to address the lack of non-white people represented in outdoor advertising.

      MEC climbing ambassador Lucas Uchida
      Lucas Uchida

      “White athletes hold the spotlight in advertising, while the diversity that exists and continues to grow in outdoor spaces isn’t represented in the images we produce and promote,” he stated in the letter. “The truth is that we haven’t represented the diversity of Canadians or of our 5 million members.”

      Labistour acknowledged that the models used in MEC catalogues, campaigns, and their website have been “predominantly white”.

      “This imagery has perpetuated the vastly incorrect notion that people of colour in Canada don’t ski, hike, climb or camp,” he stated.

      As a result, Labistour promised to ensure that the diverse community that exists in outdoor activities are represented.

      He added that the decision is also about challenging industry partners to also commit to similar  undertakings for change.

      The move is in response to criticism the company received from Vancouver member Judith Kasiama in March 2018.

      Kasiama, the founder and CEO of Mesis Global Development, is now an outdoor nation ambassador for MEC.

      In order to increase diversity on the MEC board of directors, the company states on their website that they “are actively working to maintain a gender balance on our Board, as well as increase our cultural diversity” and that they are particularly looking for “candidates who come from ethnic and cultural groups not currently represented on the Board”.


      MEC is one of several companies participating in the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, which teams up outdoor brands with advocates of inclusion for people of colour, LGBT people, and other identities that have been traditionally underrepresented.

      MEC is also accepting feedback about diversity at their website.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.