How Non-Churches do Stewardship

REI voluntarily audits its practices every year to measure their proficiency in areas of “Community”, “Sustainable Operations”, and “Workplace”.  They call this Stewardship.  As a co-op, REI is accountable to more than just ‘shareholders’.  Each major category has an overall goal (under “Workplace” REI states a goal of being “a nationally recognized top employer”).  You can read the 2010 audit right here.

I’m an REI member, having bought an REI bicycle there recently (Novara Buzz).  I personally wanted to hear more detail about ethical labor practices but am pleased that they have upped there factory audits by collaborating with others.  According to the Stewardship report, REI conducted 5 third-party audits of their factories in China, Taiwan and El Salvador plus 8 shared audits with other member companies of the Fair Factories Clearinghouse.

The most interesting thing for me is the use of the word Stewardship.  In church, Stewardship is about the money…how much people are giving.  REI, by contrast, takes a more holistic view of their use of resources.  They want the materials they use to be procured in a manner that is environmentally responsible.  They want the people who turn these materials into the products they sell to be treated fairly and be compensated appropriately.  They want their company to be so good that people will WANT to work for REI.  Of course, they want to make money, but they want so much more.

Every January, I fill out a statistical report for the Annual Conference.  These statistics count every thing from professions of faith to value of property to people served through mission.  It is very thorough.  It is published in the Conference Journal every year.  Whereas Apportionments and Professions of Faith will always be the bottom line, perhaps it would be to our benefit to take a more holistic approach to Stewardship.  If we’re willing to count something, let’s be willing to take it seriously.  That means the mission service ought not take a back seat to worship attendance, nor shall participants in Bible study be deemed less important than apportionments paid.  I go to REI to buy a bike and come away impressed with their integrity.  I go to church for something much, much more important.

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