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Planet over Profit: Patogonia’s Precedent

September 2022 by Lucia Simmons

We’ve been a proud Patagonia grantee for six years, but never have we been more proud than in the aftermath of this groundbreaking news.

In an open letter on 14th September 2022, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard explained that he and his family have given the entire company away, committing all profits to the fight against climate change.

Why would an outdoor apparel brand make this move?

“As we began to witness the extent of global warming and ecological destruction, and our own contribution to it, Patagonia committed to using our company to change the way business was done.”

Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. In 2002, Yvon Chouinard created non-profit 1% for the Planet to encourage other businesses to do the same. We became a proud recipient of Patagonia’s Environmental Grants in 2016, and a 1% for the Planet non-profit partner in 2017.

But Chouinard still felt that Patagonia could and should do more to address the environmental crisis.

How exactly does the donation work?

“Instead of ‘going public,’ you could say we’re ‘going purpose.’”

100% of the company’s voting stock and decision-making authority transfers to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, created to protect the company’s values. 100% of the nonvoting stock has been given to the Holdfast Collective, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature. Each year, the money Patagonia makes after reinvesting in the business will be distributed to this non-profit to help fight the crisis.

Who will follow suit?

“Earth is now our only shareholder.”

Patagonia’s new direction sets a new example for corporate environmentally responsible leadership. They’re “turning shareholder capitalism on its head”. Chouinard explained that:

“Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.”

Responsible purpose-led companies will attract more investment, better employees, and deeper customer loyalty. Charles Conn, the chair of Patagonia, explained:

“This is not ‘woke’ capitalism. It’s the future of business if we want to build a better world for our children and all other creatures.”

What can I do to support this move?

“If we have any hope of a thriving planet—much less a business—it is going to take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have.”

Patagonia is a hugely successful brand – success which, in many ways, has enabled this move. But the more support they receive now, the more funding is funnelled directly into tackling the climate crisis, and the more corporations will be inclined to follow in their footsteps.

We know that not everyone has the means to support Patagonia with their purchasing power, as their goods can be at the higher end of price ranges. But there are other ways to show your support. If you want to rep Patagonia with your wardrobe, look for their goods on second-hand goods platforms. As well as knowing that you’ve invested in a long-lasting item, this can be a nice (but not necessary!) aid to start conversations, with colleagues, friends and family, voicing your support for this business decision. After all, our voice is the best tool we all have to evoke change.

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