By Thierry Malleret, economist

An issue to watch in 2018 is whether more wellness-associated brands will have to enter politics and thus risk becoming embroiled in tricky partisan issues. In the U.S., Patagonia, the iconic outdoor retail brand that embodies many qualities associated with wellbeing, has decided to file a lawsuit against the current Presidential administration after it decided to remove federal protection on two million acres of land in the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah. Patagonia has a rich history of environmental activism and has already criticized the current U.S. administration for leaving the Paris climate change agreement, but this is the first time that a company has challenged in court the Antiquities Act that gives the U.S. President the power to establish national landmarks.

Other retailers like REI, North Face and Arc’teryx have also taken sides – pledging support and/or donating money – in favour of protected public land. This begs the question of whether more companies associated with wellness and well-being will follow suit by openly taking sides. Politics and retail can of course be bad bedfellows, and it’s a challenging time for brands. “Staying outside of politics” may be their favoured option, but it is likely that, more and more, they’ll be forced to take a stance and manage it from a reputational and communication viewpoints while keeping an attentive eye on the bottom-line.

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