Top eco program: Mountain Equipment Co-op’s Big Wild



Canada is a country known for its vast, untouched wilderness. It is surprising to learn that most of this country’s wild spaces are under government control, and yet very little of it is protected from sale or urban development. While 40% of wild Alaska and 33% of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is protected, less than 10% of Canada’s iconic wilderness and waters enjoy the same status.

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) and the non-governmental organization Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) joined together to start a social movement to change that. The objective and mandate of The Big Wild is to advance large-scale wilderness protection by motivating people to support the conservation of Canada’s wild land, with the goal of conserving at least half of Canada in a permanently wild state.


The aim was to convince Canadians that small efforts can make a big difference. The strategy was to develop a platform for supporters to discuss and inform others on the issues related to wilderness conservation. MEC launched a social networking site – – to mobilize a community of supporters around the cause, allowing them to share information and content.


The movement was officially launched last May through an integrated communications campaign by MEC and CPAWS agency DDB Canada, using in-store signage at MEC, print advertising in the MEC catalogue and through media outreach and guerilla marketing across Canada. Green shoelaces sold at MEC locations encouraged supporters to wear one and pass the other on to a friend as a recruitment tool.

The hub of the movement was the site, where users signed their support to the cause by sharing their personal stories, videos and images with other Canadians, recruiting new supporters and bringing home the importance of preserving the Canadian wilderness in a personal way to all visitors. Travellers could dedicate their next wilderness trips to the cause, posting a description and inviting others to sponsor them with a donation.


In its first six months, generated more than 60,000 unique visitors – 11,000 of which became supporters. And more than 6,000 started an active profile on the site – which led to 200 challenges, 300 donations, more than 150 videos uploaded and 4,000 images and stories submitted. More than 1,600 users signed up for constant communication with the movement and users were spending an average of more than four minutes on the site – all numbers that far exceed comparable causes in their first year.

The organization has already received backing from noteworthy Canadian celebrities. Musicians Sam Roberts and K-OS, and actor Luc Picard have all pledged their support.

Judges’ comments

‘MEC has been a dedicated innovator in CSR since its inception, and this commitment shows through in its current campaign. Their program is something that everyone can get behind – it generates awareness and creates a much-needed sense of urgency…this campaign inspires action. Kudos!’

-Chelsea Willness, asst. professor, Brock University

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