Patagonia owner puts his money where his mouth is. And your business should, too

A blog from Network member OggaDoon.

From misleading collection names to outright lies about production processes, the fashion industry has long been known for greenwashing. And in a world where fast fashion brands hire reality stars to become the face of their ‘sustainable’ practices, it can start to feel like there’s no ethical or sustainable way to top up our wardrobes.

Which is just one of the reasons that Yvon Chouinard, the owner of outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, took global headlines by storm when he announced that he would be giving away the brand in an attempt to tackle the climate crisis.

Patagonia has always been true to its values
Patagonia, which has an estimated worth of £2.6 billion, has long been known for its climate-aware campaigns. From its B Corp status to the famous ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ Black Friday ad, the brand has always invested its profits back into sustainable programs and focused its production on sustainability and long-lasting, good-quality clothing.

So in essence, Patagonia has always been a trailblazing inspiration for brands that truly care about the environment and staying true to its sustainable ethics. But giving away 98% of a multi-billion dollar business’ shares to ‘Earth’ (actually: the newly founded Holdfast collective, which will receive the excess profits) is a groundbreaking step that defines the idea of putting your money where your mouth is.

Obviously: we love to see it. 83 year-old Chouinard has owned Patagonia for 50 years, instilling his personal values into everything the brand does. And the remaining 2% of his shares will be held in a trust that ensures the brand sticks to these values long into the future.

For the planet, and the people
Chouinard says he doesn’t ‘respect the stock market at all,’ which is aimed at making a few people rich at the expense of the population and the planet. And though that might sound like a controversial stance for a business to take, it’s one that will prove to be fruitful for Patagonia – and hopefully other brands that follow in its footsteps.

Some smaller-scale examples of this kind of values-driven brand behaviour includes TOMS, the footwear brand that started out by donating a pair of shoes to in-need communities for every purchase made. Now, TOMS reinvests profits into mental health charities and other causes that help people and the planet. Similarly, brands like Phase Eight and Anthropologie that have signed up to Royal Trinity Hospice’s ‘nearly new’ donation scheme.

How Patagonia will ultimately still gain from this
Let’s break down the benefits of making a decision of this magnitude, which on the surface might seem detrimental to the owner.

  • Patagonia has been headline news across the world for the past 24 hours, proving that all publicity is good publicity
  • It’s likely that sales in Patagonia will now skyrocket – not just from like-minded eco-warriors but also those who might be hearing about the brand for the first time
  • Nobody actually ‘loses’ here: the company and its employees will continue to make a profit while the brand carries on doing what it’s always done – making sustainable clothing and supporting environmental campaigns
  • There can be absolutely no accusation of greenwashing when a brand is this transparent and authentic
  • Disrupting the way that businesses and the stock market are run proves that change is possible and those who don’t agree with current practises under capitalism – including greenwashing and disregard for the planet – can be all action, not just all talk
  • So, if you run a green brand and are looking for ways to make a splash, or just to make your true values known, take a leaf out of Patagonia’s book. Okay, you might not be ready to give away your entire business to the Earth just yet. But maybe one day?

Want to get your sustainable brand in the headlines? Speak to the OggaDoon team today about how we can help you develop ground-breaking campaigns and get your green business in the public eye.

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