Patagonia–My Type of Company


I read a book called “Let My People Go Surfing” for a class on Strategy I took last semester.  It was written by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia.  In it, he explains how and why he started the company and the type of environment he sought to create for his employees.  He started out selling climbing equipment in order to pay his bills and eventually built what is now one of the largest outdoor clothing & gear companies in the world.  In his book, Chouinard describes how his love for outdoors and extreme sports fueled his pledge to use his company’s resources to preserve the environment, as well as create a work culture for his employees that felt like a family.  The video below reveals some of the benefits Patagonia employees (most of whom are outdoor athletes like Chouinard) enjoy:

As an avid surfer and skiier, I was extremely attracted to the lifestyle Patagonia employees enjoy as I read about the company’s culture and policies–I would love to work somewhere that gives me the ability to do what I love most with people who have similar interests.  Chouinard also explains how in times of economic downturn, he does everything in his power to avoid layoffs, further enforcing his belief in creating family-like relationships in the workplace.  This aspect also appealed to me, since I, like most others, do not like the thought of being left with nowhere to turn.  So, it has been established that Patagonia offers many benefits to its employees–however, does it do great things?

Patagonia’s mission statement is as follows: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”  In “Let My People Go Surfing,” Chouinard explains how he never expected to become a businessman, as business is incorporated with destroying the environment.  However, he eventually learned the power of business and realized that he could use its resources to protect the environment he loves so much.  So, Patagonia implemented what it calls “1% for the Planet,” which is a pledge to donate 1% of sales every year to the preservation and restoration of the environment, no matter how the company performs that year.  It has awarded over $46 million in grants since 1985 to environmental groups.  So, Patagonia gives its money away to groups that do great things–but does that count as doing great things?

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4 thoughts on “Patagonia–My Type of Company”

  1. I definitely think a commitment to saving the environment counts as a “great thing.” However, I would be interested to see if Patagonia monitors how the environmental groups are using their funds.

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  2. I agree. Patagonia’s commitment to investing a portion of their profits every year to environmental groups seems like the perfect way for an outdoor apparel company to give back to society. I also know that Patagonia pays their employees if they decide to participate with an activist group for a designated amount of time. My thoughts for Patagonia would be if they could do even more good by devoting their donations to only a few environmental groups to make a greater impact.

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  3. I am reading Chouinard’s book right now in my sustainability class and completely agree with you. Patagonia is a model company for sustainable practices and making a larger difference towards environmental activism. Do you think companies are looking to Patagonia as a model, inside and outside retail? It is clear that other retailers like Nike and Adidas are interested in purchasing organic cotton to blend into their clothes line. This has helped organic cotton industry grow at 20% per year. Can this model be expanded outside the retail industry?

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  4. I think donating money counts as a great thing as long as they take the time to understand the organizations that they are donating to. As a corporation it would be hard for Patagonia to do much more than donating to charity because to actually do anything would require starting another division solely focused on charitable causes. I think doing this would be detrimental to the business as it would take the executives focus off of growth, which is necessary to fund their charitable activities. A great example of a company that has been able to effectively create a separate charitable organization is Microsoft, which is the source of wealth for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, this foundation eventually gave Bill Gates a reason to leave his position as CEO of Microsoft, so it is not realistic for Patagonia at this time. Someday Chouinard may be able to make a move similar to Bill Gates, but for now I think his 1% for the planet campaign is more than sufficient.

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