The Bemis Challenge Grant


By: Stacie Sullivan

You probably haven’t heard of the brand Bemis, but its product is more than likely in most, if not all, of your technical outdoor clothing. Bemis is a family owned company that is most well known for its adhesives which can be used to replace sewing or add waterproofness to seams in outdoor clothing. The brand is built around a purpose of improving people’s lives, and while the product itself isn’t often visible to the naked eye, it’s playing a key role in how comfortable and dry we feel in our clothing outdoors. 

Oftentimes, brands like Bemis are doing a lot of good for us without us even realizing it in more ways than one. For this month’s Partner in Advocacy, we want to tell you about the active role Bemis has been playing in POW’s climate advocacy work–from meeting with lawmakers on capitol hill to motivating more brands to engage in climate advocacy work. 

The Challenge Grant

In the same vein as Bemis’ previous work inspiring brands to engage in advocacy, for the entirety of May and June, Bemis is facilitating a Challenge Grant with POW, where they will match any donation made by new or renewing POW Brand Alliance partners up to $50,000. This is the first year Bemis has introduced Challenge Grants as a way of giving back to its non-profit partners, and it’s something that the company has found to have high impact and believe it’s a great way to bring in additional partners to support POW’s work in a meaningful way. 

“Our philosophy is to use our brand voice to drive systemic environmental impact and change. To do that, we have to engage our stakeholders to speak up and participate in climate policy advocacy,” said Bemis’ Director of Sustainability Ben Howard. “As a B2B company our voice is limited at the consumer level, so we focus our efforts by engaging stakeholders we are more likely to influence, such as customers, suppliers and our surrounding communities. We believe POW’s climate and environmental advocacy work has the potential for significant impact. In addition, POW’s philosophy of ‘Imperfect Advocacy’ makes participation more accessible.”    

When Bemis joined 1% For The Planet as a product line member, donating a portion of all SeamTape sales to different environmental impact causes, it opened doors for the brand to be more involved in climate work. “It’s created this big opportunity to be more intentional and strategic with our environmental impact giving,” said Ben. “That has turned into us asking how do we go deeper with some bigger partners and bring more people into the fold?”

The answer to that question was the Challenge Grant program. The goal of the program is to motivate and incentivize other brands to do more than just write a check. Steve Howard, Bemis’  Chairman, is working to put climate advocacy work at the forefront of what the brand does. He believes that the Challenge Grant helps make the donation feel more personal so that other company leaders become actively involved in climate advocacy. 

Bemis’ Chairman Steve Howard pictured right at the 2022 POW Leadership Summit | Photo by Holly Shankland

“I find that brands want to do stuff,  and it can be more than just writing a check. What we really need is the brands to leverage their influence on both their employees and consumers,” said Steve. “If they take a public stand on climate, then they can leverage their voice with the help from POW to actually get things done and motivate other people.”

Bemis chose POW for the Challenge Grant because they believe in POW’s mission and model for enacting systemic change at the state and federal level. “POW has a big voice and a lot of brand power. “The Alliance members have a lot of influence and a lot of public recognition which allows you to have this huge voice,” said Ben. “We believe in the model and we saw the impact POW can have in the recent election and with getting big bills passed.” 

Why Bemis Believes More Brands Should be Active Climate Advocates

Bemis has taken a very public stance that more brands should be vocal climate advocates because they can help influence millions of people. Steve says the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a good example of something businesses can influence. 

Steve Howard pictured center at a POW Action Fund Lobby Day | Photo by Elyse Cosgrove

“The IRA is something we’ve been striving for and although it’s not perfect, the reality is that billions of dollars are ready to be invested in electrifying the country and we need to get that up and running,” said Steve. “Large companies can help by taking a stand, talking to voters and telling them where they can make a difference.”

Steve has a strong belief that when a CEO of a brand takes a public stance on climate change that their employees will also make a connection between the work they’re doing for their jobs and what’s happening with the climate. 

“Finding ways to connect your work to climate impact is really empowering,” said Steve. “People start thinking about the different decisions or things that they can do to help influence climate advocacy work within their own company.”

From a business perspective, Steve believes that social and environmental responsibility is not only important for our society, but a smart business practice. “The majority of today’s workforce are consumers making decisions on where to buy and where to work based in some part on social and environmental responsibility of these companies,” said Steve. “In order to attract talent and consumers, it’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s a smart business thing to do.”

Both Ben and Steve encourage people at the helm of other brands to get involved in climate work no matter where they are on their climate journey by leaning into the concept of Imperfect Advocacy.

“We often think we need to be an expert before you can take action,” said Ben. “But POW’s messaging and education makes this work really accessible to get your feet wet, get outside your comfort zone and learn as you go.” 

How to Get Involved

The potential for impact of this challenge grant initiative for POW is huge. All proceeds will be directly put back into POW’s engine to get work done, from training Alliance members to DC lobby trips to meet with lawmakers. Even just one new brand partner or partnership renewal can have a cascading effect. It starts with a donation, but then POW will provide the education and tools for your brand to leverage its voice. When united together, we can help drive big, positive systemic change. 

To be a part of the Challenge Grant and to learn more about joining the Brand Alliance or to discuss renewing an already existing partnership, reach out to POW’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Patrick King at [email protected].

Steve’s message to other brands is, if you’re reading this and want to get involved, reach out. “I would love to talk to people, and discuss climate impact learnings. If other brands want to know what Bemis is doing from a climate standpoint, I’m happy to share,” said Steve. “In addition, we also want to learn what others are doing! We are far from perfect and are super inspired when seeing other companies find unique and innovative ways to drive high impact climate action.”

To contact Steve Howard to chat more about Bemis’ climate initiatives, you can email him at [email protected].

Stacie Sullivan

Author: Stacie Sullivan

Stacie always knew she wanted to pursue a career in the ski industry from a young age, having first clicked into skis at the age of 4 and writing her 8th grade career project on being a professional skier. While her dreams of becoming a professional athlete didn’t quite pan out the way she planned at […]