The north face addresses inequity in the outdoors

by Stephen Garner
Lena Waithe

The North Face has launched “Reset Normal,” a global initiative encouraging people everywhere to reset their lives through exploration in the hope of progress and discovery that is so needed in today’s challenging environment.

As part of this initiative, the brand will be launching the Explore Fund Council, a global fellowship with the goal of bringing together passionate experts across culture, entertainment, academia, and the outdoors to develop ideas and potentially scalable solutions to help support access to exploration. The learnings, findings, and recommendations from this expert group will be used to help guide how The North Face directs a new, significant financial commitment – $7 million – to organizations with the goal of building equity in the outdoors and creating opportunities for all.

The program will launch with the help of two experts who have been resetting their own industries for years, and who will bring unique perspectives and expertise to tackling the obstacles that currently prevent equitable exploration for all. These experts include Lena Waithe, an Emmy Award-winning screenwriter, producer, and actor who has devoted her career to championing underrepresented artists and communities through her production company Hillman Grad, and Jimmy Chin, The North Face Global athlete, climber, and Academy Award-winning director.

“For me, exploration has always been a mindset. As a creative, I see myself as a constant, curious explorer and I believe everyone can have and should have access to this right,” said Waithe. “The only real way to see change happen is by helping to create it yourself. I’m excited to work with The North Face and all of the Explore Fund Council members so our collective perspectives can help diversify the outdoors and make it a more equal place for all.”

“Throughout my life, exploration has been a constant source of positivity. I truly believe it is part of what makes us all human, and that exploration can bring people together and change lives,” added Chin. “Not everyone has the same access to or opportunity for outdoor adventure. This is an issue I’m excited to take on alongside The North Face and the other Explore Fund Council members.”

Waithe and Chin will work alongside additional creatives, academic experts, outdoor industry partners, and more so that collectively they can develop ideas to help create meaningful change. Together, this group will bring new perspective and input for how The North Face develops, selects, and funds organizations through The Explore Fund. The plan is to have the full Explore Fund Council group of fellows in place and announced in Spring 2021.

Currently, communities of color are three times more likely to live in nature-deprived places and often face racism and other systemic challenges when they do explore. In its first year, the goal is for the Explore Fund Council to focus on how to create more culturally relevant exploration opportunities and connect diverse communities to the benefits of exploration.

“For ten years, we’ve been working to reset the barriers to exploration and make it more accessible for all through our Explore Fund,” said Steve Lesnard, global vice president of marketing and product for The North Face. “But 2020 has proven we need to radically accelerate that work and collaborate with a broad-reaching community to help us do so. We’re really excited to work alongside changemakers like Lena and Jimmy, and I believe the Explore Fund Council will help us foster a new, more equitable era for the outdoor industry.”

The North Face plans to address the need for equity and opportunity in the outdoor industry via additional programs, as well. This includes working to facilitate new and additional mentorship opportunities that would help empower future explorers who are curious, interested, and passionate about the outdoors – but may not have access to equipment, adventures or outdoor experts they can look up to and learn from.

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