The North Face Offering 20% Discount To UK Customers Who Complete Hour-Long Anti-Racism Course

Natasha Biase

The popular sportswear brand The North Face is offering a 20% discount to customers in the United Kingdom who complete an hour-long course on racial inclusion. The course, titled: ‘Allyship in The Outdoors‘ aims to help participants “understand the challenges that people of color face when accessing the outdoors.”

Before beginning the course, the North Face outlines why the training is important and what topics will be covered, noting that they “believe in the power of exploration” and are seeking to create a “support space” where everyone is included.

“This 1-hour digital course is designed to foster a deeper understanding of the unique challenges that people of color face when accessing the outdoors,” reads the site, adding that in addition to providing training and resources to equip those who work in the outdoor industry to be better allies, it will also focus on perspectives of “race and racism in Europe.”

Included among the topics covered by the training are expanding knowledge of people of color in the outdoors, building awareness by listening to lived experiences, understanding the power of allyship, and adopting strategies for “allyship in action.”

Concluding its course introduction, the site encourages participants to have an open mind so they can listen and better understand people’s “lived experiences,” challenge assumptions, and “commit to being an ally in the outdoors.”

Module One of the course begins by noting that people of color are less likely to participate in outdoor activities than caucasian people and asks participants how often they see “people of color on the slopes, on the hills, or on the trails.”

“A 2017 study found that just 26.2% of Black people and 25.7% of Asian people spend time in the countryside, compared with 44.2% of white people in England,” reads the module, noting that these outcomes are the result of “discrimination” and the financial cost associated with accessing the outdoors.

Although Module One does highlight that the current landscape started shifting after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis in 2020, it believes there is still a way to go before achieving equity.

Each module in the course concludes with a quiz, which requires all questions to be answered correctly to move forward and receive the 20% off coupon. 

In Module Two, the training covers how the outdoors is changing, using videos featuring athletes, explorers, and allies sharing their “lived experiences of their journey to the outdoors.”

In one video, Molly Thompson-Smith, a Black athlete who has been climbing since she was seven, shares her journey as an ethnic minority in the industry and some of the barriers associated with putting a helmet on over her hair:

“I actually think I still have a bit of a barrier to wearing helmets now from my experience as a child,” she explains. “The instructors would just tell me to take my hair down, but my mom had done my hair because my hair was too difficult for me to manage myself.”

She continues: “I remember just having to wiggle this helmet on, squish my hair, and try and stick all the bushy bits in the side. Whereas all the other kids just kind of let down their long, straight hair and put this helmet on super comfortably,” adding that people would have to wait for her to get her helmet on properly, which made her feel “different.” 

Module three covers the power of allyship and calls on participants to challenge themselves and show up for those who “lack power” and have fewer privileges than white people do. The module begins by defining racism and points out where racism often appears outdoors.

The final module covers “allyship in action,” which stresses “allyship is a verb, not a noun,” and offers ways for white people to be better allies both personally and systemically.’

After completing the course, participants are reminded that the training is only the start of their training and given a unique discount code as a thank you for being committed to allyship.

News of the Allyship in The Outdoors course was met with mockery online from people who are confused about what is stopping people of color from stepping outside and enjoying nature.

“‘Allyship in the outdoors’ as though there’s a door guy keeping people from walking around outside,” wrote one user on X, formerly Twitter.

Others, like Director of Free Speech Union Toby Young, called the course “ironic” for inadvertently admitting that most of its consumer base is white.

“The irony is that North Face is implicitly acknowledging here that all its customers are white. After all, why would black customers need to take a course about ‘white privilege’ to get a 20% discount? But if all NF’s customers are white, shouldn’t it be examining the beam in its own eye?”

In addition to The North Face’s website listing its commitment to sustainability, the brand also started the Explore Fund in 2010 to “remove barriers so everyone can get outside.”

“Since 2010, The North Face Explore Fund has funded and collaborated with hundreds of nonprofits to support access and equity with communities of explorers,” including Climbers of Color, Disabled Hikers, and Native Women Running.

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