In 2021, we embarked on our journey to become a purposefully sustainable company and increase our performance in the environmental, social, and governance areas. We believe that sustainability helps us solve and manage some of our most significant business challenges.
To set the stage, Fox Factory CEO Mike Dennison, Chief Executive Officer, Scott Humphrey, Chief Financial Officer, and Jackie Martin, Chief Purpose and Inclusion Officer sat down with Amanda Scott, Social Impact Manager, to discuss why sustainability can help us develop more innovative products, connect more meaningfully with our community, and deliver more value for our stakeholders.
Amanda: Why are we working toward sustainability? And why now?
Mike: Those are good questions. Sustainability is a broad concept, but part of the answer is that focusing on sustainability is excellent for our business and the world around us. With a sustainable approach to business, we create value for the economy, the environment, and people while reducing adverse effects. The better we get at that, the better we become for everyone who has a stake in our organization.
Sustainability is becoming more critical as we expand our operations. Over the past years, we have gone through transformational growth in every possible way: our financial results have increased significantly, we have expanded from two to four continents, acquired several businesses, and our family of employees has grown more than five times since 2013. That’s huge! At the same time, it feels like we are only just at the start of our adventure.
Scott: I agree with that! We have clearly stated our ambitions to keep growing rapidly. Our strategy is to grow as much in the next four years as we have in the past forty. That means that we keep developing and changing as a company. We want to do that robustly because today’s work will be our foundation for the future. From my perspective, sustainability is one pillar that supports long-term success. For Mike and me, a lot of this is new ground. Like most things we do, we approach new initiatives as a team, and we are fortunate to have Jackie as our guiding light in this space.
Jackie: You both captured the basic concepts perfectly. I also want to emphasize how well “doing the right thing” and achieving our business objectives go together. One of the critical first steps was creating a “One Fox” strategic roadmap that outlines our mission, vision, and core values that everyone can look to as our True North. To deliver this, we needed to double down on doing the work to foster a culture of belonging that allows everyone’s voice to be welcomed, heard, valued, and used in our quest to continue to be the best at what we do.
So, my team invested early in spearheading our Realizing Inclusion, Diversity, and Engagement (R.I.D.E.) @ Fox initiative, comprised of unconscious bias and anti-harassment training, a virtual learning series, and cultural awareness campaigns, all supported by an employee council. This was the right thing to do. At the same time, we know that inclusive and diverse companies generally perform better than their peers. Both are good reasons, and combined, they are a win-win.
There are many topics, angles, and stakeholders in the sustainability mix. The real challenge is when the rubber hits the road—moving beyond ideas and strategies for working more sustainably and starting to implement change. When sustainability needs to come to life in an organization, it gets more complex. It involves keeping a holistic overview of our impacts and opportunities and addressing and managing them.
It requires the entire company’s focus and dedication to get to where we want to be in the future. It requires new systems, processes, tools, and ways of thinking—many of which we are still uncovering. It’s a lot! I acknowledge we don’t have it all figured out…but we are on the right path. Taking things one step at a time and being realistic and authentic in our approach, are two of the crucial lessons we learned in 2021.
Amanda: Let’s zoom in for a moment. How does sustainability open new opportunities for Fox’s business? And why does investing in sustainability align so well with our business goals?
Jackie: I love to start with the “why”! Let me explain this from the perspective of our core business. We make a broad portfolio of premium products across multiple brands. How we deliver this is through consistently out-innovating, out-pacing, and out-thinking the competition. That is all well and good but becomes more meaningful if you start with the “why.” As articulated in our purpose, we’re committed to challenging the impossible and leading in the never-ending pursuit of maximum performance. Said another way… we deliver solutions that elevate adventure, push limits, and help win championships. Now, we are in a unique position to lead and push boundaries in an elevated way, one fueled by the sustainability lens. This is challenging to do, to say the least.
One challenge is that we need the most skilled people to research, engineer, and produce our industry-leading and innovative solutions, so we want to be an attractive employer and a home to world-class talent. The answer is expanding and executing on our inclusion, diversity, and engagement strategy to drive equity in all that we do. Other challenges include limiting our consumption of natural resources and responsibly handling our products at the end of their life. We need to source materials responsibly through our supply chain and not only help customers repair our products, but also innovate around new ways to replace or recycle them. To address these challenges, we need to start with a better understanding of our product life cycle.
And then, we also look beyond the making of our products. How do people enjoy the experience of using them? Nature and the outdoors play a huge part in that, and we want to help protect that experience and be a catalyst for good for the environment. One of the ways we achieve that is by understanding and managing our carbon footprint. In 2021, we also launched Trail Trust, our signature community partnership program focused on preserving and maintaining trails, promoting responsible recreation, and expanding access to outdoor adventuring.
Amanda: So, sustainability helps us connect with customers too?
Mike: Absolutely. Society changes, and so does the expectation of what an organization is, what it does, and what it should stand for. In some ways, our sustainability approach expands the concept of whom we serve with our value proposition and helps us better align our business objectives with the needs of all people—whether they currently connect or identify with our brands or are potential future outdoor enthusiasts.
Our weekend warriors, our top athletes, and everyday enthusiasts are deeply involved in the success of Fox, and that doesn’t end with our many product solutions—it is about the bigger picture. Our OEM partners are experiencing the same with their customers, so we need to be part of the solution to their sustainability challenges. We expect our business partners to support us in our sustainability journey too.
Jackie: In addition to customers, we have seen the same level of engagement with our people—they are spontaneously developing sustainable solutions, from recycling office supplies to contributing to their communities and local trails. Our employees are strongly invested in our organization, driven by their winning spirit. And we need them to be champions. Because we create premium performance products, our future depends on innovation. So, our sustainability approach serves our people and seeks to emphatically involve them as critical stakeholders in this work.
Scott: This goes for our shareholders and investors, too—they are equally essential partners in this journey. Many risks in business relate to sustainability, and with the proper focus, we can create a comprehensive understanding of those risks and mitigate them.
Investors know that, and they increasingly demand that companies, including ours, report their non-financial performance alongside their financial performance. It will help them understand that we are a high-performing and sustainable organization worthy of their investment in every sense of the word.
Amanda: You weren’t kidding about the broad range of topics and stakeholders in the mix. How are we managing all of this?
Jackie: We are standing in front of a long adventure, and we need to acknowledge that we are at the beginning of it. In 2021, we embarked on our journey and committed to sustainability. Today, we are taking a big step by comprehensively reporting on our starting point for the first time.
Our commitment to sustainability means bringing a more intentional, purposeful, and strategic approach globally. We have started first by assessing the current state from a sustainability perspective: what are we, what is the world around us, and what can we become?
We then engaged a broad audience of our stakeholders to take in their perspectives and understand what we do well and where we can improve. We used all that to build a strategy that helps us make a long-term commitment toward product, people, planet, and business fundamentals. It is not an easy task, but we have a solid plan.
Mike: No, not easy at all. And from my point of view, I am immensely proud of seeing this development within the company. Sustainability affects the entire organization, and seeing how people have come together, collaborated, and put their professional mindset toward it genuinely inspires me. It gives me total confidence that we can unlock potential in all these areas.
Amanda: So, there’s plenty to look forward to in the future?
Jackie: We have hit a significant milestone by reporting on sustainability for the first time. But it is in our DNA to view this as an aspirational journey of continuous improvement—our “never done” mindset. Now is a great moment to reflect on what we have achieved and where to go next with our stakeholders. Some have asked whether we’ve identified reduction goals. We aren’t there yet. We have intentionally held off on stating any goals until we develop a clear picture of our current state. That’s what this report provides.
From here, we will align on focus areas, realistic goals and the necessary steps to progress toward them. In 2023, we will be focusing on expanding our efforts in sustainability, the preparation for which is already underway. What we have learned about ourselves and the world around us through our strategy setting and reporting process will guide us in the steps to follow.
Scott: I am glad that we are taking a solid approach to reporting by being transparent about our goals, progress, and performance. Just like we do with our financials, we are using established and recognized frameworks to do this. Not surprisingly, I like data and numbers, so I look forward to improving and simplifying our approach to disclosure in the future.
However, we need to do our due diligence. It takes time to build new metrics, put controls in place, and improve processes, but it is worth it. It is informative for those who invest their trust, talent, or money in our company, and it helps our leadership and our team better understand how we perform from a non-financial perspective.
Jackie: We will absolutely see an increase in the reporting on good things happening in our organization. We already mentioned launching Trail Trust, and our R.I.D.E @ Fox initiative is in full swing. We have identified more ways to activate solutions to make us more sustainable, so we are all very excited about what the future will bring.
Amanda: It sounds like we are not wasting any time!
Mike: Exactly! We don’t like to sit still here at Fox. We mean it when we say that our purpose as a company is to challenge the impossible and lead in the never-ending pursuit of maximum performance. Sustainability is another opportunity to invest in that purpose. And in return for putting in that work, we become more robust as a company and even better equipped to perform at our best. It’s almost like we’re athletes in that way!
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