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?