Executive Letter (Print or Electronic)

REI’s CEO takes a stand in a heartfelt blog post

The outdoor-apparel retail chain’s top executive didn’t just announce the company’s support for gay-marriage legislation. She made a personal appeal.

REI doesn’t often take positions on public policy matters, but in August 2012, CEO Sally Jewell wrote a blog post expressing the outdoor-apparel retailer’s support for gay-marriage legislation in Washington state.

Jewell knew that not all of REI’s employees would agree with that position, and she acknowledged it. She encouraged discussion, and gave her own, personal reasons for taking a stance. Jewell’s heartfelt appeal and recognition of the diversity of opinion within REI makes her blog post the winner of Ragan’s 2012 Employee Communication Award for Best Executive Letter (Print or Electronic).

In the post, Jewell mentioned that she and her husband, Warren, had just celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary, which led into a discussion of how heterosexual couples take the benefits of marriage for granted.

“Marriage equality is important to the co-op because the benefits, legal clarity and societal understanding that Warren and I have enjoyed these past 34 years should be available to any two people who want to express their love and make a permanent commitment to each other that is so clearly provided for in the legal definition of marriage,” she wrote.

Employees expressed their opinions—of the 194 ratings the blog post received, 42 were “thumbs-down” responses—in a respectful manner. The post engendered a healthy discussion, and many employees said they appreciated Jewell’s willingness to dig into her own personal life to explain her decision.

To view the winning work, click here.

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