Burton Co-CEO on Shutting Down for Global Climate Strike
Burton is shutting its offices, stores and websites around the world to participate in the Global Climate Strike on September 20.
The strike, inspired by 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, is being led by students globally.
SES spoke with Burton Co-CEO Donna Carpenter, who is currently based in Europe, about why Burton is getting involved.
Greta has sparked a movement of students who are striking every Friday and demanding action from political leaders. The strikes have grown to 3.6 million participants in 169 countries.
Burton plans to shut offices in the U.S., Canada, Europe, China, Japan, South Korea and Australia.
All global flagship stores owned by Burton will open as a community gathering space before and after the marches, but cash registers will be closed.
Burton’s website will not accept orders for 24 hours worldwide and instead re-direct to the Global Climate Strike website.
Patagonia is also participating in the strike along with companies such as Ben & Jerry’s, Lush Cosmetics, and Seventh Generation.
When I first heard about Burton’s participation in the strike, I remembered you telling me when we last talked that one of your goals as CEO was to speak out more about issues.
Donna Carpenter: We are at a time when businesses have to take this role. Before, we didn’t see ourselves as having to move the needle on social issues. But because the government isn’t doing anything, I think it’s up to individuals and businesses.
We also have these grassroots groups at Burton like Women’s Leadership and we have an environmental one called EPIC. They are the ones that brought me the proposal.
Over here in Europe, Greta has really inspired so many people. There are students taking to the streets every Friday afternoon demanding action on climate change.
So as soon as EPIC team brought it to me, I knew we needed to join in and make noise.
How did you get from participating in the strike to shutting down the Burton website that day?
Donna Carpenter: Two things. We wanted to put our money where our mouth was.
And, we wanted to use it as an opportunity to educate our customer about what is happening and why we are participating. So our site will redirect to the Global Climate Strike website that day.
I think it’s a good opportunity for education.
And the Burton stores are also getting involved?
Donna Carpenter: Yes, so we are closed for business and open for action. We think that our customer is probably going to be participating. Our customer cares about global warming, they really do. So we’re providing a community space where they can make posters and gather before and after.
I think we’re well positioned to be the community hub for some of these events so it’s exciting.
How does this help Burton by participating in the strike?
Donna Carpenter: Business-wise it increases the customer loyalty to us. The comments I saw on social media were “This is why I buy Burton,” “This is why I believe in Burton,” “This is why my family rides Burton.”
There were hardly any negative comments, they were all positives.
This is different, right? Did you guys used to take these kind of stands?
Donna Carpenter: No, but like I said, I don’t think we needed to before. And, we were really afraid of it.
But now we are in a really different time where consumers want to know what your values are and, more importantly, if you are really living up to them.
And that’s the younger generation pushing that, right?
Donna Carpenter: It really is, and they are holding us all accountable and making us be transparent.
Are you encouraging Burton employees to participate?
Donna Carpenter: Everybody does get the day paid whether they are participating or not, but they are all being encouraged to participate.
I think it also builds loyalty and goodwill with our employees, too. They want to work for a company that means something rather than just sells stuff.
What are you going to be doing that day?
Donna Carpenter: I already had plans to be in London, so I’ll be there. We don’t have a store in London but I will be with our British crew.
At a protest?
Donna Carpenter: Yes.
Do you see Burton doing more things like this in the future?
Donna Carpenter: Around climate, yes. It’s gotten to the point where we have to do something.