Let’s be honest, not a ton went to plan this year. But amidst what was a turbulent ride for just about every human on the planet, a few brands showed up to give us hope, optimism and a reason to rally. The Monday team pulled together a list of brands that deserve a shout out before year’s end. These brands tackled some of the biggest ongoing challenges—climate change, social isolation and an economy on the rocks. We think what they’re doing is worth our attention. 

1. PrAna’s Responsible Packaging Movement 

If 2020’s quarantine and social distancing measures made one thing abundantly clear, it’s that ordering stuff online equals enough cardboard to build a 10-bedroom mansion fort. Ecommerce packaging is aggressively elaborate. And we get it—brands need to protect their products so they arrive in tip-top shape. But packaging is fraught with non-recyclable materials, so PrAna set out to solve that with a little help from their friends. 

Putting competition aside, PrAna enlisted the likes of Outerknown, Burton, Merrel, Saucony and about 40 other big-time brands to make responsible packaging a big priority across the outdoor industry. Their goal is to completely eliminate plastic from their consumer packaging by 2021, eliminate use of materials from ancient and endangered forests by 2022, as well as eliminate use of virgin forest fibres by 2025.

2. Girlfriend Collective’s ‘Girlfriend to Girlfriend’ Initiative 

When unemployment rates rose to an all-time high, yoga brand Girlfriend Collective rolled out their Girlfriend to Girlfriend initiative to support their community. Instead of cancelling photoshoots that female creatives relied on for income or paring back their marketing budget, Girlfriend Collective decided to partner with female creatives who were affected by COVID-19 to create content that felt relevant and authentic in the changed landscape. They paid these creators directly or donated to their charity of choice.

3. On’s Cyclon Running Shoe Subscription Service

Runner’s know: in a matter of months, your new sneakers are splitting at the seam or losing tread and you need a new pair before you can even make it to the next season. Swiss-born performance running shoe brand, On, set out to solve that for runners—and for the planet. It’s no secret that tossing out a pair of running shoes every couple of months is no bueno for the environment. Think about the Whistler-Mountain-sized pile of shoes one runner will have tossed in a lifetime.

For $34.99 a month, runners can get a subscription service to the Cyclon Shoe. They’re made of castor beans. They’re recyclable. And when your shoes reach the end of their life (they estimate at around the 600 km mark) you can send them back to be recycled and they will send you a new pair. Creating an initiative of this magnitude is no small feat, and we salute On for, well, taking it on. 

4. REI’s ‘Virtual Outfitting’ Program

Buying the wrong outdoor gear is a really hard pill to swallow, especially when you’re 20 kilometres out in the backcountry and learn your sleeping bag really isn’t warm enough for that three-day ski touring trip you’re on. 

When brick-and-mortar locations were forced to shut down this year, REI introduced an easy-to-use Virtual Outfitting Program. This program lets members book one-on-one appointments with REI staff for recommendations, advice and how-tos for anything from running and hiking shoe fit to tents, electronics and climbing equipment. The speed at which REI got this program running showed members how committed they are to ensuring all their customers have the best possible outdoor experience.

5. Arc’teryx’s ‘Used Gear Month’ Campaign

Did you know that if everybody bought one used item of clothing this year instead of new, we’d save 449 million pounds of waste? In 2019, Arc’teryx rolled out a robust Used Gear Program that allows anyone to trade-in used Arc’teryx gear for store credit—no matter how old the gear is (as long as it’s in good condition). Arc’teryx then cleans and repairs the gear and puts it back up on their ecommerce site at a discounted price—keeping their top quality gear in play and out of the landfill. This year we developed a new brand for Used Gear and it was by far one of our favourite projects of 2020.

To encourage customers to trade in their gear throughout November, (a notoriously buy, buy, buy, consume, consume, consume month), Arc’teryx created Used Gear Month where they increased the trade-in value for items as well as donated $10 to Protect Our Winters for every item traded in. Their decision to dedicate a huge chunk of prime real estate to the program during such a sales-focused month showed their deep commitment to building a circular economy.

6. Nike’s ‘Can’t Stop Us’ Campaign 

When life screeched to a halt around the world—including massive sporting events like the Olympics and the major leagues—Nike turned to archive footage of some iconic moments in sport to remind us all that “no matter how bad it gets, we will always come back stronger”. 

While every brand under the sun shared the same ethos of “we’re in this together” over the peak of COVID-19 outbreaks in the spring, Nike managed to take us all on a trip down memory lane. They connected a globally relevant message back to the heart of their brand in a way that was authentic to them and genuinely energizing for anyone watching.

Let’s all raise a glass to these brands for seeing incredible uncertainty and trying times as a chance to send a powerful message and do something meaningful.