The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the others who came before them have culminated in a worldwide call for change. We grieve alongside and stand in solidarity with everyone, including many of our staff, fighting for justice and equality for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).
But we also must acknowledge that we are part of the problem.
We’ve always prided ourselves on providing access to the outdoors for all people, but on most counts, we’ve fallen far short of honoring that mission. Even more to the point, in the past 50 years, while we’ve introduced thousands of people to the wilderness, we’ve also played a role in perpetuating an outdoor industry that is predominantly white.
Like many companies that strive to be socially responsible and conscientious, we have acknowledged our lack of diversity in recent years and explored ways to address it. Still, if we’re being candid, despite a few small steps toward change, we’ve failed to make much meaningful progress. We know we need to do more, and here are a few goals we have committed ourselves to:
- Create and support a culture of inclusion at OARS with continued training for our managers, staff, and ownership in mitigating biases and increasing cultural humility.
- Intentional hiring – We have long known that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are underrepresented among our guides, staff and management team. We will recruit and hire from a diverse pool of talent and partner with more BIPOC organizations, contributors, and photographers.
- Increased representation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color on our website and in our digital and printed promotional materials.
- Through The Pam & George Wendt Foundation, continue to provide transformative wilderness experiences for under-resourced youth, and extend scholarship opportunities intended to diversify our workforce for qualified students to attend one of our annual whitewater guide school programs.
In the upcoming weeks, we also invite you to join us as we follow and support the #JustAddWater project, which is aimed at breaking down barriers and elevating the importance of racial and ethnic diversity in the outdoors. It’s the chance for all of us to hear from documentary film producer and outdoor enthusiast Faith Briggs, and former river guide, kayaker and outdoorsperson Adam Edwards, as they share their adventures, and lead conversations about making the outdoors safe and accessible for all. You can sign up here to tune in. The campaign is not a response to this critical moment, but its timing couldn’t be more important for cultivating common ground among diverse communities in the outdoor industry.
We believe the outdoors are for everyone, and it’s a priority for us to create a more inclusive environment at OARS and in the greater outdoor community.
In support and solidarity,
The OARS Family