WASHINGTON — President Obama has nominated one of the retail industry’s leaders — Sally Jewell, president and chief executive officer of REI — to serve in his cabinet.
This story first appeared in the February 7, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Obama tapped Jewell, who has been at the helm of REI, an outdoor apparel, footwear and equipment retail chain, since 2005, as his nominee for Interior Secretary, which oversees national parks, energy reserves and offshore oil fields.
If confirmed by the Senate, Jewell would succeed outgoing secretary Ken Salazar.
“Sally has helped turn a stalling outdoor retailer into one of America’s most successful and environmentally conscious companies,” Obama said at the White House on Wednesday. “Last year REI donated almost $4 million to protect trails and parks. Twenty percent of the electricity used in their stores comes from renewable sources.”
“She knows there is no contradiction between being a good steward of the land and our economic progress,” Obama said. “In fact, those two things need to go hand in hand. She has shown that a company with more than $1 billion in sales can do the right thing for our planet.”
Jewell joined REI in 1996 as a board member and then became the chain’s chief operating officer in 2000. Prior to joining REI, Jewell spent 19 years in commercial banking and three years as an engineer in the oil industry.
Jewell helped lead sustainability initiatives at REI, increased the company’s sales to $2 billion annually from $1 billion, added 71 stores for a total of 127 units and expanded its online business.
“Her work in the private sector as a petroleum engineer, a successful banker and chief executive of a 10,000-employee national retail chain represents the diversity and expertise needed to be a leader in Washington, D.C.” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and ceo of the Outdoor Industry Association. “Her experience will ensure that the nation’s public lands and infrastructure remains a crucial component of America’s economic recovery, sustainable energy extraction, renewable development, conservation and recreation — elements critical to the success of the Department of the Interior.”
Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, where Jewell has served on the board since 2007, said, “Her thoughtful guidance and leadership have been tremendous assets to RILA and the retail industry at large….I have no doubt that she will guide the Department of the Interior with the same vision and leadership with which she led REI.”