It should come as no surprise that Steve Lesnard, The North Face CMO and global VP of product creation, chose Jimmy Chin to co-head the company’s new Explore Fund Council. After all, he seems like a perfect fit for the natural outdoor sports gear maker. Chin won an Academy Award for co-directing “Free Solo,” a documentary showcasing Alex Honnold’s 2017 climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan, and other hair-raising adventures. He also has an impressive adventure photography portfolio. Chin is an illustrative example of a person that lives on the edge, pushing himself to new heights.
But the reason that Steve Lesnard chose Chin goes deeper than his experience scaling a cliff without any supporting gear while capturing the experience on film. 30 years ago, Chin was living in an old Subaru, spending his days skiing the steep mountainside gorges and gullies outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and scaling sheer rock faces in Yosemite. He was also solo in another way: He was usually the only person of color on expeditions in a world where adventure skiing and cliff scaling were reserved mostly for wealthy adventurists. His experiences bring a unique perspective. Through his lens, The North Face is creating a welcoming environment that expands opportunities for a more diverse outdoor sports community.
The Explore Fund Council’s mission is to remove barriers that exclude anyone from getting outside while respecting nature and protecting wild places. It’s a radical plan to accelerate inclusivity and opportunity for all. The North Face partners with experts, like Jimmy Chin, on the road to achieving this lofty goal.
Steve Lesnard, The North Face CMO and global VP of product creation, explains that the company has pursued overcoming the barriers to exploration for the past decade, but it’s time to “radically accelerate that work and collaborate with a broad-reaching community to help us do so.”
Research shows that people of color are more likely to live in nature-deprived places, and amplifying opportunities for people with limited resources will help create a more welcoming environment for everyone. The company will do more than just throw money at the problem; it will also offer mentorship programs for people who are interested in nature and outdoor sports but have barriers to access.
The Explore Fund Council was created to overcome accessibility challenges and drive real, life-altering cultural changes. The goals all focus on understanding why these barriers exist and finding ways to change the way that we think about and interact with the wild.
The North Face committed a $7 million purse to bring industry experts from multiple sectors (academia, cultural groups, outdoor enthusiasts, and the entertainment industry) together who are passionate about social justice and transformative change. This collaboration will support access to exploration through social media campaigns and other branding activities that promote inclusivity and diversity.
One way that The North Face encourages everyone to get out and explore the wild is through its Reset Normal campaign. The company put out a press release explaining how exploration can have positive benefits for people of all backgrounds, but when people of color venture out to explore, they often face racism and other systemic challenges. Steve Lesnard, The North Face CMO and global VP of product creation believes that “the Explore Fund Council will help us foster a new, more equitable era for the outdoor industry.” He and the council leaders are passionate about expanding opportunities that eliminate these challenges for anyone interested in exploring nature through outdoor activities.
The North Face Explore Fund Council is committed to accelerating real change in our society that encourages and enables everyone to get outdoors.