The Mountain Equipment Co-op store on West Broadway in Vancouver. (Google Streetview)

MEC not in rush to drop gun-linked company

MEC not rushing to drop gun-linked company as it weighs membership feedback

The head of Mountain Equipment Co-op says the company isn’t rushing to make a decision about its supply chain after consumers on social media connected brands sold at its stores to a major U.S. gun manufacturer.

But CEO David Labistour said MEC will be looking more carefully at potential risks involved with larger holding companies it deals with.

“We’ve always believed in having all the details and all the information before making a decision,” Labistour said in an interview late Monday.

“These decisions are going to offend someone somewhere because what we know through our social media feed is that not everyone is of the same opinion, so we have to weigh this very carefully and make sure that we make a decision that’s consistent with our membership and the values of the organizations.”

His comments came after MEC said earlier Monday that its senior management would be meeting to discuss calls for it to stop selling Vista Outdoor Inc.-owned brands, including Camelbak and Bolle. Utah-based Vista also designs, develops and manufactures ammunition, long guns and related equipment, its website says.

Vista owns Savage Arms, which sells multiple semi-automatic rifles. Those are similar to the type of rifle a shooter used earlier this month to kill 17 people at a school in Parkland, Fla.

Related: MEC faces calls to drop outdoor brands owned by U.S. gun manufacturer

While MEC doesn’t sell firearms, it does stock the helmets, sunglasses and other outdoor goods Vista makes.

Labistour said going forward, the company will be looking more carefully at its supply chain.

“What we’ve done in the past is that we’ve been very focused on product sustainability and ethical sourcing, which we’re very proud of, but at the same time we’ve never really looked upstream to parent companies and holding companies and the risk involved there,” he said.

Tim Southam, public affairs manager at MEC, said ownership patterns in the outdoor industry are changing as more large players have come into the space and bought up what were formerly independent brands.

“Camelbak, for example, our relationship goes back to 2009 before Vista Outdoors even existed as a company,” Southam added. “These are relationships with individual brands that in some cases go back many years.

“Our sourcing practices have been squarely focused on MEC’s label and environmental consideration and kind of the larger political economy questions have not come into play. And what this situation underscores is that we need to dig into them more to have a better understanding.”

A Change.org petition calls on the retailer to stop carrying the Vista brands.

“Given the recent massacre of high school students in Parkland, Fla., MEC is facing an urgent ethical obligation: to act in accordance with its ‘mission and values,’” reads the petition, which had been signed by about 900 people as of late Monday afternoon.

Some people aired their concerns on the company’s Twitter and Facebook pages, asking it to stop selling Vista-owned brands.

Vista did not immediately responded to a request for comment but MEC encouraged consumers to keep sharing their views via social media.

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

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