Giving up profit to defend the planet: what the Patagonia case teaches us

Yvon Chouinard sold the company to protect the environment, teaching an important lesson on the subject of social and corporate responsibility

The logo of Patagonia, a company that has given up its profits in defense of the environment
The logo of Patagonia, a company that has given up its profits in defense of the environment – ​​Photo by Ajay Suresh from New York, NY, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a world where many companies give themselves a light brushstroke of green to ride a sustainability only on the facade, there are those who are really serious in terms of social and corporate responsibility. We are talking about Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard, founder of the historic brand dedicated to sportswear, has sold the company entirely to a non-profit which will be engaged in the fight against climate change and in the protection of virgin lands.

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In the photo, left, Yvon Chouinard on the top of El Capitain (Yosemite Park, California) in 1964: the founder of Patagonia was in fact a famous climber - Photo by Tom Frost, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
In the photo, left, Yvon Chouinard on the top of El Capitain (Yosemite Park, California) in 1964: the founder of Patagonia was in fact a famous climber – Photo by Tom Frost, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Patagonia, the symbol of an unconventional capitalism

Yvon Chouinard has always been a atypical businessman and attentive to the environmental impact of their company. In addition to a careful use of raw materials, for decades he has donated the1 percent of its sales to various non-profits. Since 1985, in fact, the company has set itself a Earth Tax, donated to organizations engaged in environmental activism in defense of the air, land and water of our planet. There complete cession of Patagonia opens today a new chapter in the world of Corporate Social Responsibility. On Patagonia's official website Yvon Chouinard writes: "We are doing our best to address the environmental crisis, but it is not enough."

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The proceeds of Yvon Chouinard's company will go to a non-profit

And it is also from the brand's official website that the founder of Patagonia explains how the company will work from now on.

“100 percent of the company's voting stock has been transferred to Patagonia Purpose Trust, created to protect the company's values; 100% of the non-voting shares were sold to Holdfast Collective, a non-profit organization committed to fighting against the environmental crisis and in defense of nature. Every year the money earned by Patagonia, after being reinvested in the company, will be allocated as a dividend to the non-profit, which will use it to contribute to the fight against the climate crisis”.

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The founder of Patagonia has always been committed to defending the planet, in its entirety: many beautiful and important stories of activism are listed on the brand's website
The founder of Patagonia has always been committed to defending the planet, in its entirety: many beautiful and important stories of activism are listed on the brand's website - Photo iStock

A Corporate Social Responsibility that becomes aspirational

In a world where sustainability is mere marketing and environmental protection becomes simple greenwashing, the choice of Patagonia creates un aspirational precedent of great value. Indeed, thanks to Yvon Chouinard and his family, completely changes the definition of Corporate Social Responsibility: the company policy, in this case, does not simply harmonize the economic objectives with the social and environmental ones, but makes them coincide and overlap perfectly. Such a choice is certainly unconventional, but at the same time it can become agreat strategy which feeds a virtuous circle which is good for everyone: profit, environment and citizens.

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Yvon Chouinard has raised the concept of Corporate and Social Responsibility to a new level: in his company, profit coincides with environmental protection - Photo iStock
Yvon Chouinard has raised the concept of Corporate and Social Responsibility to a new level: in his company, profit coincides with environmental protection – Photo iStock

Consumers are increasingly attentive to the impact of industry

THEConsumers' attention is in fact increasingly directed to sustainability and, above all, to the defense of the environment by companies. This is also confirmed by the data of the latest edition of theEY Future Consumer Index: the priority assigned to issues related to environmental protection rises to 35% compared to 17% two years ago. Furthermore, 80% of the interviewees declared that they expect companies to be increasingly committed to generating a positive impact capable of respecting the environment and society. In short, if a product is sustainable, it has a better chance of being purchased by the final consumer. The sixth also echoes these data research by the National Observatory on sustainable lifestyles, hosted by Lifegate. In fact, 26% of the panel states that they are willing to spend more for but most productsprovided they are sustainable e attentive to environmental protection. Among these, the exponents of generation Z, i.e. the adults of tomorrow, are most aware of their purchases.

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A slide from the sixth National Observatory on sustainable lifestyles, which shows how consumers are decidedly more aware of the purchases they usually make - Image Lifegate
A slide from the sixth National Observatory on sustainable lifestyles, which shows how consumers are decidedly more aware of the purchases they usually make - Image Lifegate

From corporate profits to attention to the environment

to Patagonia becomes a aspirational model which can be applied to any production sector. And if the creation of benefit companies is no longer a novelty, allocating part (or all) of one's revenues to an environmental cause is certainly not yet a widespread practice. To generate the right change, Patagonia itself has created a ad hoc program which follows the already mentioned Earth Tax, or that 1 percent of sales that the sportswear company has been allocating for decades to organizations committed to protecting the environment. Yvon Chouinard e Craig Matthews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, have in fact created the program 1% for the Planet, a non-profit committed to encouraging businesses and the environment to allocate part of their revenues to nature conservation. As stated on the initiative's website:

“1% for the Planet is an alliance of companies that understand the need to protect the natural environment. These are aware companies, who have understood that profits and losses are directly linked to the health of the planet and, for this reason, they are concerned about the social and environmental impact of the industry”.

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Sustainability is not just a facade

La Yvon Chouinard lesson but it is also another. Actively contributing to the protection of the environment through a decisive economic commitment is commendable, but doing your own company un sustainability model becomes today a obligation necessary to save humanity from the nearby climate apocalypse. Circular economy and real social and corporate responsibility are the keys to sustainable development. Fashion, agriculture, construction, transport, infrastructure. Each production sector can become greener and have less impact on the environment. For example, fashion can focus on regenerated fabrics, agriculture can turn towards organic farming and the reduction of the livestock sector, transport can be decarbonised thanks to e-mobility, the construction sector can focus on green building and the infrastructure sector can use friendly materials of the environment.

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A journey by car can also be more sustainable based on the type of route chosen
A journey by car can also be more sustainable based on the type of route chosen - Photo iStock

The future is green, and so could the ways to travel it

Le roads on which we move every day, for example, could have less impact on the environment also thanks to materials with which they are made. Let's think of the paths in nature or the so-called greenways, which cross sites of high environmental and landscape value: here, instead of the classic asphalt, the pnatural and recyclable aviments which, to the high mechanical resistance, combine an excellent level of permeability thanks to the eco-compatible and environmentally friendly construction materials. In short, thanks to the'technological innovation and materials research, a lot can be done in every sector. Yvon Chouinard taught us how to do it, now it's up to us to treasure his lesson.

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