Columbia has been a leader in outdoor sports and expedition gear since 1938. The company prides itself on its history and success; a ‘family business gone global’ as it states on its company website. Chairman Gert Boyle's parents (Paul & Marie Lamfrom, who founded the company) were German nationals who fled Nazi Germany in 1937; purchased a small hat company upon their arrival in Portland, USA, and named it Columbia Hat Company, after the river that inspired their new home.
This humble beginning was of huge significance to the family, marking newfound freedom and a fresh start. Today, Gert’s son; Tim Boyle is the CEO, with Bryan Timm as president. As of 1960, the company changed its name to Columbia Sportswear Company.
The company’s headquarters are surrounded by forests, framed by volcanic mountains and a rugged coast; an environment perfect for hiking, riding, running, fishing, hunting, climbing, camping, among other sports & activities Columbia promotes through its environment-tailored sports gear. It produces footwear, headgear, camping equipment, ski-wear, and accessories. Columbia’s jackets have long garnered a reputation for using fabric that is simultaneously waterproof as well as breathable. Newer jackets also feature interchangeable shells and liners. In 2001, it was the largest American seller of ski apparel.
Going hand-in-hand with its love of the outdoors, Columbia further prides itself on its collaboration with sustainable and Eco-friendly associations & initiatives: The Sustainable Apparel Coalition works to reduce the environmental and social impacts of clothing and footwear products. The Conservation Alliance is a group of outdoor industry companies that disburse their collective annual membership funds to grassroots environmental organizations. Columbia proudly supports Conservation Alliance and its mission of protecting wild places for their habitat and recreational value. Since its inception in 1989, the Alliance has contributed close to $13 million to grassroots conservation groups throughout North America. The results of their funding have been remarkable in helping save more than 42 million acres of natural space; protect 2,825 miles of rivers; designate five marine reserves; and purchase nine climbing areas. In addition, the Alliance hosts a series of Backyard Collectives across America to bring together member company employees & benefactors for a day of environmental action. Projects include trail work, invasive species removal, and other creative projects that make a difference in local communities and ecosystems.
American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day is a nationwide campaign to connect Americans to the great outdoors through trail-based activities such as hiking, trail running, mountain biking, horseback riding, and paddling. It is celebrated every year in June by thousands of organizations and individuals, who host free, public events across every U.S. state.
Other Partnerships, Involvement and Initiatives:
Less than 25% of school-aged children participate in daily physical activity. Columbia works with a diverse group of partners around the world to create opportunities for kids to 'get outside' and 'get moving', by introducing them and getting them to appreciate outdoor activities. To this end, The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working nationally and internationally to reconnect children with nature. The Network provides a critical link between researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children's health and well-being. Grassroots Outdoor Alliance and Columbia recognise dynamic local projects and people that get kids outside and conserve the natural places through the Columbia/Grassroots Belay Program. This program, established in 2012, has expanded each year growing from 10 recipients in 2012 to 20 in 2014. The recipients receive $5,000 for their efforts in the form of cash, product, or both, from Columbia. Similarly, Big City Mountaineers (BCM) uses wilderness expeditions to impact the lives of under-privileged urban teens. Mentoring provided by community-based youth organizations and adult volunteers help the young people improve their integrity, self-esteem, responsibility, decision making, and communication skills. Columbia has been a long-term partner with BCM because of its shared commitment to getting kids 'outside'. Together with BCM, Columbia has created a novel program called the Try Columbia and Introduce Urban Teens to the Outdoors initiative. A $5 donation is made to BCM when consumers simply “Try On” a pair of Columbia Sportswear shoes at select retail stores (no purchase necessary). This donation then directly supports BCM in its endeavour to provide wilderness awareness opportunities to under-privileged teens while instilling personal responsibility, among other qualities.