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We’re living in contentious times. The venerable American brand L.L. Bean, maker of the famously preppy duck boot and boat tote, came under fire this week when reports revealed that Linda Bean, granddaughter of the founder and a current board member of the Maine-based company, donated $60,000 to a political-action committee that supported Donald Trump.
Naturally, the retailer was targeted for a boycott by the #GrabYourWallet anti-Trump movement, which urges citizens to vote with their dollars. In response, L.L. Bean executive chairman Shawn Gorman said in a statement that he was “deeply troubled by the portrayal of L.L. Bean as a supporter of any political agenda.”
This morning, no less than the President-elect Trump himself tweeted about the latest corporate tit-for-tat, saying:
Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L.Bean for your great support and courage. People will support you even more now. Buy L.L.Bean. @LBPerfectMaine
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2017
The response garnered more than 58,000 likes, but others on social media weren’t so pleased, pledging to ditch their tried-and-true L.L. Bean boots in favor of pairs from Hunter and Sorel instead.
We decided to do some digging into the brand that’s been lovingly embraced by everyone from Chloe Sevigny to Wes Anderson. And putting Linda Bean’s pro-Trump PAC donation aside, L.L. Bean is actually more progressive than meets the eye. Here are a few reasons why.
1. L.L. Bean is still made in America.
The company is the fifth-largest private employer in the state of Maine (ranging between 4,501 to 5,000 workers), according to a first-quarter 2016 report from the state’s government. With most American manufacturing jobs long gone overseas, L.L. Bean has kept its operations local and made it possible to provide more job opportunities for Mainers. All of the famous duck boots, for example, are made in the company’s Freeport, Maine, factory, which is why there’s a waiting list for them. L.L. Bean also has been listed on Fortune magazine’s list of 100 best companies to work for and Forbes magazine’s best employers in the U.S. list.
2. L.L. Bean provides benefits to same-sex couples.
When voters rejected a law that allowed for same-sex marriage in Maine on Nov. 3, 2009, there was much focus on the state and its businesses. L.L. Bean was rumored to have been in the opposition camp to making same-sex marriage legal, but the retailer issued a statement that refuted the claim: “For the record, L.L.Bean took no position on this question, nor have any of the owners of the business contributed funds to opposition to same sex-marriage.” The retailer is one of Maine’s private employers that provide benefits to domestic partners as of Feb. 25, 2014, according to GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.
3. L.L. Bean provides Somali refugees with job opportunities.
When Somali refugees first migrated to Maine, not everyone was so welcoming. In 2002, then-mayor of Lewiston Laurier T. Raymond wrote an open letter to the Somali community stating that their move to Lewiston would have negative impacts. A decade later, the city of Lewiston has become more accepting of the Somali community, with L.L. Bean being one of the businesses to provide them with job opportunities. The Somalis even have helped revitalize Lisbon Street in downtown Lewiston by supporting its small businesses.
4. L.L. Bean is a strong advocate for environmental conservation.
For a brand that’s all about the great outdoors, it should come as no surprise that L.L. Bean is committed to protecting the environment. According to its website, the company “has given more than $14 million to local, state, regional and national conservation organizations in the last ten years.” L.L. Bean also lists the nonprofit conversation and outdoor recreation organizations it currently donates to, including the American Hiking Society, Atlantic Salmon Federation and The Bicycle Coalition of Maine.
5. L.L. Bean’s return policy is on point.
The American heritage brand has a 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed policy, so if you’re unhappy about the quality of your Blucher moccasins or rolling Adventure bag, you can return them. “We make pieces that last, and if they don’t, we want to know about it. So if it’s not working or fitting or standing up to its task, we’ll take it back,” reads the site. And if you don’t have a receipt and they’re unable to locate a record of it, the company will reimburse you with an L.L. Bean merchandise credit for the current selling price of the item or replace your item. Not too shabby. And if you ever find yourself in Freeport, Maine, the flagship is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
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