Photo: Megan Baker
Over the course of the last 20 years, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has grown to become Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's (CPAWS) most important corporate partner. The relationship began with MEC donating to CPAWS conservation campaigns and has blossomed into a long-term partnership.
In 2002, the relationship took a big step forward when MEC partnered with CPAWS in the "Boreal Rendezvous" project, a public relations effort aimed at raising awareness of the importance of protecting Canada's Boreal forest. CPAWS organized 10 canoe trips down beautiful rivers in Canada's Boreal forest, involving, notable Canadians, artists, writers and conservationists. MEC contributed gear, marketing expertise and space in their stores across the country to promote the project. With MEC's help, and a major media campaign,, Boreal Rendezvous successfully raised the profile of Canada's Boreal forest over the course of just one summer.
Since the Boreal Rendezvous project, a long-term partnership has grown between MEC and CPAWS, involving such elements as generous annual capacity grants; year-round advertising space in the MEC stores to promote CPAWS conservation campaigns; and most notably, a joint social marketing venture called "The Big Wild".
The Big Wild" included pioneering web and social media efforts to engage MEC's members in CPAWS' wilderness conservation campaigns. Since its inception, The Big Wild has helped to inspire more than 100,000 actions in support of wilderness conservation. The website will wind up this year, but as a legacy project, MEC is now the title sponsor of a peer-to-peer fundraising project called The Big Wild Challenge launching this season, intended as an annual campaign to engage Canadians in raising money for wilderness conservation, linked to their outdoor activities.
MEC and CPAWS have also launched new ways to promote conservation. They are currently in their second year of annual co-branded marketing campaigns to promote a specific CPAWS' conservation priority.
Last year the focus was on marine protection. Through the "Dare to be Deep: Protect Canada's Oceans" campaign, MEC donated marketing expertise, space in stores and online for promotion, and affixed hang tags on dry bags, informing members that MEC would donate $1 towards CPAWS' ocean conservation efforts for every dry bag purchased. Through this effort, more than 12,000 new signatures were gathered and a $40,000 financial contribution from MEC through the dry bag sales was donated to CPAWS in support of their efforts to establish new marine conservation areas.
In 2013, MEC is supporting CPAWS' new "I love Canada's parks" campaign, aimed at engaging citizens in defending Canada's parks from spending cuts and other threats. Through "I love Canada's Parks", MEC will again be donating social marketing expertise, prizes, and promotions through online and in-store channels. MEC will affix hang tags on day-packs informing members they will donating $1 from every pack sold, up to $20,000, to CPAWS for park conservation.
The value of MEC's contribution to CPAWS over the past 20 years now exceeds $1 million. CPAWS also benefits tremendously from MEC staff's generous sharing of marketing and customer relations expertise.
It takes years to gain the Canadian conservation victories that CPAWS strives for, and MEC has demonstrated through their continued partnership that they are in it for the long haul.