At MEC, our aim is to provide quality gear and excellent value. We also want to minimize our environmental impact, by building products that last. To do this, we take the time to test the materials and products we're developing so they will function and endure. If your gear works season after season then we're really getting somewhere. MEC is the largest retail co-operative in Canada and demonstrates what can be done through collective democratic ownership. Our commitment to green building, community grants, ethical purchasing, product sustainability, and promotion of Canada-wide parks and protected areas demonstrates the best of what business can be in our society.
MEC was conceived by a small group of Canadian climbers who wanted a place to buy gear not carried by conventional retailers: gear for mountaineering, rock climbing, ski touring, and hiking. In August 1971, these six initial members founded Mountain Equipment Co-op. Our design philosophy is a set of principles that guides us through every step of the product development process. It is the foundation for building innovative, functional, and durable MEC-brand products. It takes approximately 18 months for a product to go from initial design to arrival in our stores, and even longer to research and develop new fabrics or technologies. Keeping these ideas in mind through all the development cycles ensures we don't get off route somewhere along the way. Our gear testing program lets us refine the details of MEC designs as well as test different fabrics and materials by giving them a real-world thrashing. And, it just makes sense to set up the tents where they'll weather some storms and toss the wetsuits into the surf to see how they come out. Innovation in product design not only ensures high function in our gear but success in our journey towards environmental sustainability. By choosing lower impact materials and production techniques, we are working to reduce our ecological footprint on the planet. We've established a set of guidelines to distinguish products that use a significant sustainable initiative. We originally identified MEC-brand gear that fits these criteria. Now we've expanded it to include other brand partners who have proven that they follow the same guidelines. How do we decide which materials are used in our products? We analyze them in the MEC testing lab. Tucked around the corner from the busy hub of our design studios and production floor, test guru John Shen manipulates the machines and devices that grade potential components of MEC gear.