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Mountain Equipment Co-op
Type Co-operative
Founded Vancouver, BC (1971)
Headquarters Canada Vancouver, BC, Canada
Key people David Labistour, CEO
Industry outdoor equipment

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is a Canadian consumers' cooperative, which sells outdoor recreation gear and clothing. As of 2008, MEC has over 2.9 million members.[1] MEC is notable for its commitment to environmental protection and other causes.[2] As a co-op, MEC sells only to customers who hold a lifetime membership, which is technically a share and can be purchased by anyone for $5. MEC bills itself as Canada's largest supplier of outdoor equipment. Since its founding in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1971, MEC has expanded across Canada and now operates stores in twelve cities throughout the nation, with plans for further expansion.



The MEC store in Ottawa.

Members can shop at any of the twelve retail stores, on-line, or by mail order from their catalogue. MEC also operates a "Corporate & Group Sales" Store for large orders at discounted prices. Among MEC's best "corporate" members are the military, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, parks agencies and various search and rescue organizations. In addition, the MEC stores are known for their eco friendly design; recycled timber, natural lighting, green roofs, and sustainable energy sources are often used. In fact, the Ottawa and Winnipeg locations were the first and second retail buildings in Canada to comply with Canada's C2000 Green Building Standard which acknowledges buildings that achieve a 50% reduction in energy consumption over conventional structures.[3]

MEC distinguishes itself from other outdoor retailers through its eco-friendly product line and intensive focus on corporate social responsibility. The company is noted for their ethical sourcing, labour commitments, co-operative structure, and innovation in sustainability. The co-op designs and produces the majority of its gear although also carries products by many other well-known companies. A significant proportion of the company's inventory is manufactured abroad in Asia although they also have six contract factories in Vancouver[4]. This allows it to have some control over quality and price issues, placing it in a superior position in the eyes of its customer base. Furthermore, directed by the members, MEC fulfills its core purpose: to help people enjoy the benefits of self-propelled wilderness-oriented recreation. They accomplish this by selling outdoor gear, clothing, and services.[5] MEC's head office, phone/service centre and distribution centre are located in Vancouver.



Each year, every member of MEC has the opportunity to vote in the elections for its board of directors, as well as on "ordinary resolutions", through a variety of methods. Before the election period, an information package with platforms of candidates and information on resolutions is distributed. Election results are announced at the annual general meeting.

In the 2007 elections, 14,996 members voted online, 2,510 members voted by phone, and 201 members voted by mail.[6] Given that MEC has around 2.9 million members, this represents a voter turnout of significantly less than 1%.

Board of Directors

MEC is governed by a nine-member board of directors. Each year, three directors are elected to three-year terms.[7]

Annual General Meeting

Each April, MEC holds its annual general meeting in Vancouver. At this meeting, the Chief Executive Officer and other staff deliver their annual reports, and answer questions from co-op members. "Special resolutions" may also be brought forward and voted upon. In 2007, up to 50 members could attend via teleconference. Additionally, the AGM was webcast on the Internet and in the Calgary and Toronto stores.[8] Typically, members recite their member numbers before speaking and these numbers are recorded in the official meeting transcript.


The green roof on the MEC store in Toronto.


MEC describes its mission as follows:

Mountain Equipment Co-op provides quality products and services for self-propelled wilderness-oriented recreation, such as hiking and mountaineering, at the lowest reasonable price in an informative, respectful manner. We are a member-owned co-operative striving for social and environmental leadership.[9]

The co-op also has codified a purpose, a vision, and values which express similar sentiments of self-propelled recreation and environmental responsibility.[9]

Social Initiatives

MEC has undertaken many initiatives in the name of attempting to fulfill its value of social responsibility, including the following:

Business Initiatives

Among MEC's many business initiatives undertaken to better serve its members as well as secure long term financial sustainability are:

  • The Fall 2007 launch of MEC’s new larger distribution centre in Surrey BC. This new distribution centre is the first “Green” LEED accredited distribution centre in North America
  • In November 2008 MEC opened bicycle repair shops in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal stores. The Winnipeg and Burlington stores opened their repair shops in March 2009.
  • MEC has announced that it will be carrying a large comprehensive line of bicycles in 7 stores by spring 2010 with a goal of carrying them in all stores by 2014.[13]


MEC's growth has been slow and methodical over the last 30 years. During Peter Robinson's tenure as CEO from 2000 to 2007[14], the chain targeted one new store opening per year. With a 2007 sales target of almost a quarter of a billion dollars, MEC continues to look for new ways to fulfill its mission statement of "getting people outdoors". Among Mr. Robinson's significant contributions was to add experienced and innovative personnel to the senior management team with a vision of improving service, quality, sustainability and updating their stores and website to remain competitive in an ever changing market.

By early 2004 MEC culture, sales and internal financial health was once again thriving, posting surpluses in excess of 5% of sales.

MEC's long-term challenge is to remain relevant to a quickly changing demographic that prefers urban outdoor experiences to those that MEC traditionally caters to.

In December 2007, MEC became the first retailer in Canada to stop selling certain water bottles and food containers containing bisphenol A, a chemical used to make some plastics that has been linked in some studies to increased incidence of cancer and other diseases.[1]


On April 28, 2007, the day of MEC's annual general meeting, the Vancouver Sun, owned by Canwest, ran a front-page article in which competing non co-op retailers criticized MEC for having an unfair advantage over smaller outdoor gear retailers, due to its lesser tax burden resulting from its cooperative status. However, no one from MEC was interviewed.[15]

Motion to boycott Israeli goods

In April 2009, a motion was proposed by BC Teachers for Peace and Global Action (PAGE) to call for MEC to boycott Israeli-made products (MEC purchases seamless underwear and a hydration system for hikers and bikers from Israeli companies). PAGE argued: "MEC's members may not be aware of their organization's disturbing lack of concern for the human rights of Palestinians."[16] The motion immediately fueled a storm of controversy.[17]

On 30 April 2009, at the chain's annual general meeting, the motion was soundly rejected. The Canada-Israel Committee praised the outcome stating: "The policy of MEC has been upheld. It made sense, because it's not just about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but about ethical sourcing and MEC policy."[18] Conversely, Hanna Kawas, chairman of the Canada Palestine Association, stated that his organization will continue to publicize the chain's sale of Israeli-made goods and called for a boycott of all Mountain Equipment Co-op outlets. Kawas stated: "(MEC) is supporting war crimes and apartheid. We will promote a boycott. It's a global movement that's gaining strength. We'll continue to do what South Africans did against apartheid."[19]

List of stores by location

MEC store in Edmonton.

MEC operates stores in:

See also

External links & references


  1. ^ "About MEC". Retrieved 2008-11-30.  
  2. ^ Mountain Equipment Co-Op Among Top 'Green' Retailers Worldwide.] Newswise. 20 Nov. 2009.
  3. ^ Mec's Green Building Program
  4. ^ Made in Canada - As Long as We Don't Have to Make It
  5. ^ .(
  6. ^ "Election Results". Retrieved 2007-05-23.  
  7. ^ "BOD Biographies". Retrieved 2007-05-23.  
  8. ^ "MEC Annual General Meeting". Retrieved 2007-05-23.  
  9. ^ a b "Mission Statement". Retrieved 2007-05-23.  
  10. ^ "1% for the Planet". Retrieved 2007-05-23.  
  11. ^ "Garment Recycling at MEC". Retrieved 2007-05-23.  
  12. ^
  13. ^ "MEC Blog Post about coming launch of bike line". Retrieved 2008-12-30.  
  14. ^ "MEC looks within for its new CEO". Media Release. Mountain Equipment Co-op. 04 December 2007.  
  15. ^ "Gear-without-guilt co-op now a Goliath: Mountain Equipment Co-op's tax-free growth irks competitors".  
  16. ^ Boycotting Israeli Apartheid. The Global Educator.
  17. ^ O'Brian, Amy (2009-04-22). Outfitter urged to boycott Israeli goods. Canwest News Service (printed in the National Post), 22 April 2009. Retrieved from
  18. ^ Hill, Mary Frances. Mountain Equipment Co-op votes down Israel boycott. National Post. 1 May 2009.
  19. ^ Hill, Mary Frances (2009-05-01). Mountain Equipment Co-op votes down Israel boycott. Canwest News Service (printed in the National Post), 1 May 2009. Retrieved from
  20. ^ Fong, April (2007-06-27). Retailer set to pitch its tent in Burlington. The Hamilton Spectator, 27 June 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-01 from
  21. ^


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