Outdoor industry leaders: Why we’re giving our employees the resources to vote

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As some of America’s leading outdoor recreation brands, we value the power of a well-informed plan. Devising strategies to meet and exceed our customers’ needs means they can execute better outdoor experiences and adventures. When they go on a hike or a camping trip, each outing requires that they make a plan and chart a course before they start.

Nov. 3 is the truest example of democracy, and on election day Americans will make another series of choices to help shape the future of our communities, our economy, and our environment. Millions of these voters are our customers and our employees. 

We believe it is our corporate responsibility to stress the importance of democratic elections and provide our employees with the resources to vote. We urge leaders in every industry and corner of America, from local small business owners to large national corporations, to join us.

Although many of us compete on the retail floor, we stand side by side in our commitment. Nearly half of expected voters will go in person to polling places this year despite the unique challenges presented by COVID-19. Accessing the polls requires time. No American should have to choose between earning a paycheck and voting. 

Companies across the outdoor recreation industry are offering support and scheduling accommodations to vote in local, state, and federal elections, be it in person or by mail. For example, in addition to Keen’s “Vote Love” campaign, which asks fans to show care for others by turning out for the election, the footwear company encourages its own employees to exercise their right to vote, and provides two hours of paid leave for employees that need time to vote during work hours on election day.

L.L. Bean is delaying the opening of all retail stores on election day to ensure employees have ample time to vote, as well as donating face masks to the company’s home state of Maine to ensure all poll volunteers and those voting in person remain safe.

Orvis is supporting employee participation in the democratic process by opening all retail stores later in the day, at noon local time, to allow associates the opportunity to vote in person.

Helping employees get out to vote not only honors their constitutional rights, it strengthens our communities and even our industries. Each sector is united by a set of shared values. In the outdoor recreation industry, every election presents an opportunity to make a clear statement of our support for a thriving economy, thriving people, and a thriving planet. 

Our companies already prioritize these values by fighting to protect public lands and waters, increase access to the outdoors, mitigate climate change, and restore our economy. We have seen how our collective efforts can change and improve the lives of everyday Americans. Imagine if industries applied this same united spirit to supporting the electoral process.

With some of the barriers to voting removed through employer initiatives, employees can more easily map out how and when they will vote. The first step anyone should take—as soon as possible—is to find out if they are registered to vote and make sure that their registration is up to date. Those who are not registered can do so online in most states. 

If employees plan to vote early through a mail-in ballot, this is another process that needs to be initiated sooner rather than later. Next comes understanding the issues and candidates. Who is on the ballot at the federal, state, and local levels? Where do candidates stand on the issues?

How employees choose to vote is ultimately a personal decision. But choosing to vote in the first place is something we should all agree on and encourage. Only 56% of Americans who were registered to vote did so in the 2016 election, and 36% of eligible Americans are not registered, according to the Pew Research Center.

We must do better. Businesses have the responsibility to remove barriers that could get in the way of their employees participating in the democratic process. We look to leaders in other industries to join us.

Lise Aangeenbrug is executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association.

Tom Adams is chief operating officer of Petzl.

Arne Arens is global president of the North Face.

Erik Burbank is chief brand officer of Keen.

Jon Hoerauf is president of Arc’teryx.

Abel Navarrete is vice president of sustainability and community impact at Columbia.

Simon Perkins is president of Orvis.

Steve Rendle is chairman and CEO of VF Corporation.

Casey Sheahan is CEO of Simms Fishing Products.

Stephen M. Smith is president and CEO of L.L. Bean.

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