Eye on Orvis–Vice President of Conservation and Sustainability, Laura Schaffer

Written by: Laurie Barrett

Laura helps her husband, Brian Alward, celebrate a gorgeous brown trout while fishing on Colorado’s Taylor River with Willowfly Anglers.

At Orvis, we have a mantra passed down through three generations of the Perkins family: “If we are to benefit from the use of our natural resources, then we must be willing to act to preserve them.”

As we honor Earth Month, we proudly spotlight Laura Schaffer, our dedicated Vice President of Conservation and Sustainability, in this month’s edition of “Eye on Orvis.” Laura’s remarkable journey with Orvis has now reached its second anniversary, and we’re thrilled to showcase her as a strong representative of our team and culture.  

With over two decades of experience in the outdoor industry, Laura initially found her footing in marketing and communications before embracing her true passion for environmental advocacy. She saw herself pursuing public relations while enjoying photography as a side passion, however, a transformative moment during her public-relations work in the ski industry sparked her realization that businesses could wield their influence for positive change, particularly in sustainability. Faced with forecasts of drastic changes in skiing due to climate change, Laura was spurred into action by her environmental consciousness, cultivated since childhood through participation in local conservation programs. 

Laura loves hiking with her kids, Petra and Porter, on the Aspen Trail in Wyoming, overlooking Idaho’s Teton Valley.

While Laura’s experience was more in the hiking, climbing, and skiing spaces, her journey led her to Orvis through a former colleague at Mountain Hardwear. Once here, she quickly recognized Orvis’s legacy in conservation and our unwavering commitment to preserving the world’s natural resources. She realized that fishing and hunting serve as common ground for collaboration. Armed with an MBA in Sustainability, Laura now spearheads Orvis’s mission to protect and restore 50 million acres of vital habitat, be a climate positive business, and introduce 100,000 youth to fly fishing and the natural world, all by 2030. 

No small challenge. 

Laura emphasizes the importance of a comprehensive framework with a focus on the Orvis commitment to lead the sustainable future of fly-fishing and wingshooting—all of which will guide generations of connections to nature under the incredible team at Orvis. But with leadership comes responsibility, and we are focused on success in this endeavor through next generation participation, internal work around product sustainability, partnerships, education, and advocacy. In our own house, we’ve forged impactful conservation partnerships with organizations such as Trout Unlimited, The Everglades Foundation, Captains for Clean Water, Petfinder Foundation, Casting for Recovery and Pheasants Forever. 

(l to r) Orvis VP of Strategic Planning & Merchandising Frazier Blair, VP of Sustainability & Conservation Laura Schaffer, and VP of Operations Mike Rigney pose on the Capitol steps with Orvis’s Wall Street Journal ad.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Laura’s passion for the environment is intertwined with her love for adventure. A seasoned world traveler, she cherishes memories of her upbringing spanning France to Iowa to New York City, and shares anecdotes of family outdoor exploration—including the story of her grandfather catching the largest smallmouth bass in North America on a fly rod. She is passionate about skiing and snowboarding, and when she’s not working to save the ecosystem, you’ll find her on the slopes.  

Laura’s advice to future Orvis associates includes lessons learned from her own journey: be an attentive listener and be guided by the shared goal of protecting what we love. Laura understands that the most effective tool an organization has is its voice, and lobbying for Everglades restoration funding in Washington, D.C. underscores her commitment to effecting tangible change, and she is grateful to work for a company that believes in digging in to do the work.  

The whole familyposed after hiking up the trail up to the Escalante Natural Arch and then wading the river the way back.

Conserving and restoring habitat—from local streams in backyards across America to massive ecosystems unique to the world, like Alaska’s Bristol Bay or Florida’s Everglades—has been core to Orvis since the 1960s. In the wake of an increasingly warming climate, this work has never been more important to the future health of fish, birds, and our outdoor passions. 

Laura now spearheads initiatives to assess our carbon footprint and implement environmentally responsible practices across our operations. With much yet to accomplish, we are grateful to have Laura at the helm, steering Orvis towards a brighter, more sustainable future. 

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