As we reflect on last week's Black Friday, one could say that it’s a day dedicated to the opposite of corporate social responsibility (CSR): excessive consumption and unbridled materialism. Yet, there’s a counter-movement to this version of Black Friday.
Nine Black Fridays ago, Patagonia placed a bold New York Times ad. It had a photo of one of its popular fleeces but said, “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” The brand was asking consumers to consider the environmental in their purchasing decisions. It was borderline blasphemous for a retailer to suggest not buying its product, especially on the biggest shopping day of the year.
In 2015, REI followed Patagonia’s lead with an equally bold move. It closed shop on Black Friday. REI gave employees paid-time off and encouraged them, and any would-be customers, to spend the day enjoying nature. Since then, other brands have joined the #OptOutside Black Friday movement. For example, Trouts Fly Fishing, which has stores in Denver and Frisco, invited employees and customers to spend Black Friday not just outdoors, but caring for the outdoors. The company hosted a river cleanup (socially distanced this year). Colorado State Parks also did its part to encourage outdoor enjoyment instead of material consumption, making admission free at all 42 parks on Black Friday.
So, can Black Friday be socially responsible? Apparently so. More so every year.