Simms Signs the Outdoor CEO Pledge

Simms is proud to announce that our CEO, Casey Sheahan, has signed the Outdoor CEO Pledge – an initiative launched through the In Solidarity Project. The Pledge’s goal is to bring the outdoor industry together to help improve representation and access for underrepresented communities across the country, an initiative Simms is firmly invested in. 

As a company committed to conservation, clean water and equal representation, having diversity in our sport is essential for creating more advocates for our natural resources. Let’s move the industry forward collectively.

To better understand what the Outdoor CEO Pledge is all about and what is expected from Simms, check out the interview below with Teresa Baker, the Founder of the In Solidarity Project and the Outdoor CEO Pledge. She sheds light on the origins of the movement, what brands are expected to do after signing, and so much more.

SIMMS: Why don’t we start at the beginning. Can you please tell us who you are what you do?

Teresa: I’m Teresa Baker, and I founded the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge back in January of 2018, and launched it at the summer OR show that very same year. The purpose of the pledge is to simply engage with outdoor brands and help them with the work of inclusion in their marketing and social media campaigns as well as their hiring practices. 

SIMMS: What was the inspiration back in 2018 to launch the CEO Diversity Pledge? Were you working in the space prior to launching the pledge? How did this all begin for you?

Teresa: Most things that I do are prompted by me being pissed off and angry. I don’t try and hide that from people. So this initiative was born out of frustration. I was taking to social media, especially Instagram, and not seeing anyone that looked like me on the various outdoor brands’ platforms. I wasn’t seeing people of color, and that was frustrating. I thought, ‘let me start reaching out to some of these brands and make them aware that they need to do better.’ That was the purpose behind me creating the pledge. 

I felt like that we could give a space for brands and retailers to do better. Once we started having those conversations, it became clear that yeah, there’s an issue. It’s not to say that things have changed dramatically over 2 years because they haven’t, but things have started to change and that’s good. People are having these conversations, I’m seeing more representation across social media platforms, and that’s awesome to see. 

SIMMS: We are roughly 2 years in the lifespan of the pledge- how’s it been going so far?

Teresa: Busy as hell lately. I would say for the first year of the pledge, it was us reaching out to everyone, making sure they were aware of the pledge. We spent lots of time walking the floor of the retailer shows, speaking to heads of marketing and doing a bunch of outreach on our behalf. It was challenging in the beginning. In saying that, 2020 has been amazing. People have continuously reached out to us and asked for help with their attempt of taking on this work of DEI. In the past 2 months alone, I think we’ve signed on 85 new brands, so its super busy at the moment. 

Some of the industries like cycling and fishing were the hardest to reach. Cycling is still hard. I believe angling is starting to come around, and that’s a good sign. 

SIMMS: If cycling and fishing were two of the hardest industries to break into, what were some of the easier activities to break into?

Teresa: The hiking and the climbing community were definitely the easiest. The misconception out there is that people of color “don’t.” They don’t hike, don’t climb, don’t ski, don’t cycle, or are not fishing. It’s easy to do away with those perceptions when brands show us doing those things. 

As you can imagine, it’s easy to show people hiking. Even if it was just down a straight trail, that’s easy to find. Wherever you go, there’s a hiking trail. Fishing on the other hand, there has to be water around. You have to actually get out and seek those images. So, it’s a matter of getting out there and reaching out to these underrepresented communities and saying ‘hey we want to work with you on some of these campaigns, can we tag along on your next outing.’ For me it has always been that simple. But that message wasn’t getting to marketing directors like it is now. 

SIMMS: What are your thoughts about the fishing community in regard to taking on inclusion and diversity? 

Teresa: You know it’s funny, growing up, fishing is all my dad did. He had a boat and he would go fishing almost every weekend. Fishing was never uncommon to me, I just don’t like it. My point is that it’s not a matter of people of color not being out there fishing- we always been fishing. I think the difference now is that we see the importance of sharing these stories and sharing these images of us doing that so that it does become common place. 

For those of us that work on matters of diversity and inclusion, getting the word out to other people saying ‘hey show us your photos, share them on social media, tag this brand, you know include this hashtag so that we become more visible.’ So I think it’s a matter of us making ourselves more visible.

SIMMS: Sitting here today, it is an absolute no brainer to get on board and support the In Solidarity initiative. Was there any push back from brands when you first started? Were people saying no to you?

Teresa: It wasn’t a matter of people saying no, it was just a matter of people not returning my emails or calls. I guess in a way that’s a no, but I think people see this. I have way too much faith in humanity to say they don’t see the problem. People see the problem. I think the concern is that brands want to be certain in how they address the problem. They don’t want to make mistakes, they want to get it right. What I try and get across to people is to not let that be your focus- you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to get it wrong. What we need to do is give people the opportunity to try, fail, then try again. And that is the message we have and are still trying to get out into the industry so that people don’t feel so pressured to get it right all the time. 

SIMMS: As far as the pledge itself is concerned, what does the relationship look like after a brand signs. What are brands expected to do once they sign? Can you give us a quick rundown of what happens once someone signs?

Teresa: Sure. What we want to get across to people is that we can give you the tools, but you must do the work. We can’t do the work for you. We can’t write out a game plan and say ‘here follow these steps and you’ll be successful.’ Brands have to have skin in the game from the CEO, which is why its called the CEO pledge. The CEO does not need to take the lead but he or she must be involved in this work. Once they sign the pledge, we say ‘okay- ready, set, go!’ Get out there and talk to your marketing director, come up with a game plan and look at how other signatorees are going about doing this work. follow their lead, follow their example. You don’t have to recreate the wheel. 

For me, the easiest part of the pledge is the visibility part of it. Show more images of color across your social media platforms. Chris Perkins, who works with me on the pledge, thought that putting up a pretty picture was way too easy and we needed to add other elements. So we also look at the hiring process. I believe companies need to advertise in spaces that reach a wider range of candidates and not continue to post in your usual places because you’re constantly reaching the same candidates over and over again. Next, we look at the ambassador team. We want to make sure that your ambassadors are from diverse backgrounds. The fourth component is simply working with other pledge signatorees. To show that as a collective, you’re doing this work. Work with one another to come up with a plan. So those are basically the 4 elements.

SIMMS: You mentioned the job board, which we think is an extremely valuable component of your initiative. Could you give us a bit of background on the start of the job board and how its speaking to a different audience base than your typical job boards?

Teresa: The Insolidarity website is where the pledge and the job board are housed. When we first started in 2018, the pledge was housed on the website of diversify outdoors because we didn’t know how well the pledge was going to do so we didn’t really see a need to create a webpage behind it. Brands started to constantly reach out saying where can we post about jobs. So, 3 months ago Brian from the outbound collective reached out and said let me build a website for the pledge and the job board, so we created the In Solidarity website. That way they can reach communities of color, communities with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, so it’s a wider range, a wider reach that this job board provides. 

SIMMS: Have people been finding jobs through it?

Teresa: Yes. I get emails all the time from people thanking us for providing this service to them. And that’s basically what it is- its providing a service so that people will know, if we post here we will have a better chance of reaching a more diverse pool of candidates if that is indeed what they are looking to do. We’ve gotten tons from people that have applied for those jobs, so yeah, its definitely working. 

SIMMS: Where do you see this going in a year from now? How about 3 years from now? What’s your outlook on this whole situation?

Teresa: Over the next year or two I want to pledge to continue to grow. I want people to see how positive of a resource it is. It can connect so many companies with DEI agents across the country. Under our community tab were building a database of DEI agents and creatives across all of outdoors- be it hiking, skiing, whatever it is. These are all amazing people who can help do this work of DEI. 

In 3 years I hope to do away with the pledge. I don’t want the pledge to be around forever. When they look for ambassadors, they automatically include people from underrepresented communities. When they hire, they automatically seek out diverse candidates. Whatever aspects of business they’re in, I want the role of the pledge to just be automatic and there not need for a pledge or to sign onto a pledge. In 3 years I’d like to do away with the pledge.

SIMMS: We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what is being done on a brand level. As Simms, we signed the pledge and are taking steps to make changes in our organization. What do you think the average outdoorsmen can do to help with the diversity issue? It’s all well and good for a company to say and do something, but for the millions of individual recreationalists out there, what do they do?

Teresa: As a consumer, if I see a certain brand and I’ve grown accustomed to using, and at some point I start to notice something that could possibly help them, I am going to reach out to that brand. For someone who enjoys fishing and understands the importance of conservation or the protection of outdoors spaces- if they see that certain individuals are not represented equally- I would certainly reach out and say hey this work can definitely use more X, Y, Z. You fill in the blank. More women, more people of color, more people with disabilities. So that would be my ask of the public. These are some issues that we are facing around environmental protection and in order to bring more people to the table, look at who you are missing from the conversation. And when you see who’s missing encourage these brands that you use to be more inclusive of them. 

SIMMS: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the Simms audience?

Teresa: I think what’s important is that you guys use your voice. You know, we get reached out to all the time from publications and what not asking for interviews and I’m like sure, but what say you? What do you all think? The brands, the marketing directors, the CEOs, what do you all think? Because your voice matters, too. I would encourage brands, their marketing teams, their ambassadors, to speak out and speak up and share with the public what your thoughts are on diversity and inclusion. The public hears from loud mouths like me all the time, but we don’t hear from marketing directors or CEOs directly. Signing the pledge is a public announcement, yes, but put some words behind that. Why? Why are you doing this?  Why is it important to you? That’s what I would encourage you all to do.