The Instagram post from Judith Kasiama that sparked MEC’s diversity initiative. (jujumil/Instagram)

Outdoor retailer MEC vows to boost diversity after online complaint

Mountain Equipment Co-op was criticized for perpetuating a white-only picture of the outdoors

An outdoor recreation retailer is vowing to increase diversity in its online ads and workforce after being called out on social media.

In an email sent to members Monday, Mountain Equipment Co-op said the company had let them down.

“Historically, the models we’ve used in our catalogues and campaigns and on mec.ca have been predominantly white,” CEO David Labistour said.

“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 under-representing people of colour in the outdoors, and committing to change. It’s not okay.”

The retailer said its campaign was sparked after a post last March from Judith Kasiama, an avid hiker and a Vancouver-area Instagrammer.

“There seems to be a narrative that [black and Indigenous people of colour] don’t enjoy the outdoor compare to their white friends,” Kasiama wrote.

“This is not rooted in actual reality but a myth perpetuated by marketing that caters to predominately white audience.”

She tagged several outdoor recreation companies in her post, including MEC, Arcteryx and Helly Hansen, and said the brands “paint a narrative that people like me don’t enjoy the outdoors.”

Later that month, Kasiama said the company responded to her post and signed her on as MEC “outdoor nation ambassador.”

“This gives me a chance to extend the conversation, speak directly to a young diverse audience and help them make the change they want to see in the world,” Kasiama said in a video posted to the MEC website.

“Representation matters because role models define what’s possible.”

The company released several videos with more diverse representatives, and said it’s committing to a more varied board of directors.


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