NRS is a leading manufacturer of high-performance inflatable boats, standup paddle boards, rafting gear, clothing, camping gear and more. Based in Moscow, Idaho, the company employs around 100 people and is 100% employee-owned.
NRS was founded in 1972 as Northwest River Supplies by Bill Parks, then a business professor at the University of Oregon. Parks believed that businesses could create value in people’s lives beyond just generating profits, and he started the firm to show that these ideas could work in the real world.
An avid river runner, Parks also understood the hassle of sourcing equipment, which often had to be purchased individually from multiple different outlets, or be handmade. By bringing all the necessary components under one roof, Parks vision was to have his company become a one-stop shop for people looking to explore the wilderness.
As a company that sells gear for individuals exploring open spaces, including rivers and other bodies of water, NRS believes protecting those waterways is more than just a side project; it’s a matter of survival.
“Obviously, clean water is essential to the lives — and the livelihoods — of humans everywhere,” says Mark Deming, Brand Manager at NRS. “As a business, our success depends on people having clean water and wild places where they can relax, recharge, and reconnect with nature. We know that protecting these resources is essential for our industry as well as for humankind itself.”
While a fairly new ASBC member, NRS has been active in protecting waterways for many years. The company joined American Rivers for their National River Cleanup program to facilitate efforts at thousands of rivers nationwide by helping provide garbage bags and other equipment. NRS is also supporting efforts around the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which is coming up in 2018. These efforts are important complements to ASBC’s campaign on behalf of the Clean Water Rule, as both recognize that clean water is an essential resource that must be protected—not just for businesses that rely on water-related tourism, but for all companies.
Being part of a broad national organization like ASBC was a good business decision, says Deming, because “NRS doesn’t want to be a company that just throws money at issues—we want to work in partnership with groups that are actually helping to make the situation better.”
That focus — on finding a productive role for business in important national issues and on being a good corporate citizen –made NRS a perfect fit for ASBC. “The story of our origin — wanting to operate a different kind of company — runs against the cynical idea that business exists only to make profits for owners or shareholders,” Deming says.
“Supporting sustainability and being a good citizen of the world are a big part of how business can be a force for good.”