A sign made by William Rixon, who has been protesting L.L. Bean’s partnership with Citibank to offer the Bean Bucks credit card. Courtesy photo

“PROTECT MOTHER EARTH,” William Rixon’s homemade climate banner reads. Assembled with drop cloth and PVC piping, it stands at 10 feet, dwarfing Rixon.

Since September, Rixon and a group of fellow retirees have been standing with signs outside L.L. Bean’s sprawling downtown Freeport campus as well as its corporate headquarters just down the road. They have been calling for the retailer to reconsider its relationship with Citibank due to its investments in fossil fuel companies. At minimum, they would like to see L.L. Bean issue a public statement to Citibank, whom they partner with to offer the L.L. Bean Mastercard, asking that the bank refrain from investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Rixon got a surprise response Tuesday morning a little before 8 a.m. when L.L. Bean CEO Stephen Smith made a detour on his way into the office to stop and talk with the man behind the sign.

The conversation, Rixon said, was “amiable.”

Rixon said Smith explained how L.L. Bean had accomplished a long list of environmental initiatives and listened to Rixon’s point of view.

“I hope that Stephen Smith took away from our conversation the fact that this is a great marketing opportunity for L.L. Bean,” Rixon said. “They have the opportunity to burnish and bolster their reputation as good stewards of the environment by leading others to a better climate future.”


Attempts to reach Smith for comment were not successful.

Bill Rixon outside the L.L. Bean retail store earlier this month. He was joined by Molly Schen, a member of Third Act Maine. Luna Soley / The Times Record

Dr. Tom Mikulka, a co-facilitator of Third Act Maine, an organization that brings together Americans older than 60 to campaign against climate change, wrote to Smith on June 13. “I am an enthusiastic customer of L.L. Bean and a lover of outdoors. I want to begin by praising L.L. Bean for its efforts to eliminate plastic from packaging and PFAS from its products.”

Mikulka went on to detail the “abysmal” standing of Citibank on climate rankings worldwide.

“Every dollar that Citi makes from credit card holders is a potential dollar funding more fossil fuel development,” he wrote.

According to a report on fossil fuel investments by global banks, Citibank invested the second-largest amount between 2016 and 2022, $332 billion, topped only by JP Morgan Chase.

Smith responded to Mikulka’s letter, writing, “The card is a significant source of revenue for the company, helping to fund millions of dollars in investments in sustainability and conservation efforts such as renewing our $3 million commitment to the National Park Foundation and endowing a postdoctoral research program at the University of Maine to identify PFAS remediation solutions.”


After reviewing a list of other banks that might offer an alternative, Smith continued, L.L. Bean management did not find a viable replacement.

It’s unclear whether the protests will prompt a public statement by L.L. Bean. If they do, it could help influence other outdoors brands to review the environmental integrity of their financial partners, Rixon said.

“As a stakeholder company, L.L. Bean is committed to doing what is best for our six stakeholders — customers, employees, shareholders, vendors, communities and the natural environment,” said Jason Sulham, L.L. Bean’s manager of public affairs. “Company leadership regularly communicates our values and expectations to all of our vendors, including Citibank.”

Rixon said he’s not satisfied.

“I will continue to be a presence outside both the corporate offices and the flagship store,” he said Wednesday.

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