By Lydia Paglierani
“There is no business on a dead planet,” says prominent environmentalist, David Brower in 1986. The outdoor clothing and gear company, Patagonia, has an edge that allows them to be a leader in this “green market”. It all started 50 years ago when Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, used junkyard supplies to make reusable climbing hardware in which he produced in a tin shed in Ventura, CA. The steel pitons he produced turned out to damage the rocks, so he made aluminum ones that were removable but could no longer produce them at the quantity that they were being demanded by himself. Patagonia now has $800 million in sales.
Aside from the huge amount of sales, this company puts effort into being environmentally cautious with their products. According to their website, they go on to do things like generate their own 203,502 kWh of renewable energy and make another 980,112 kWh throughout several of their global offices. They believe in a reconstruction of new stores instead of building an entirely new one, give the monetary incentive to employees ($2 per trip) by carpooling, riding a bike, taking public transportation—doing anything but taking their own car, and even using post-consumer waste paper for their catalogs and other office uses. These environmentally friendly steps are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of other efforts Patagonia put into conserving what we have left of this planet.
According to The Guardian, businesses today are responsible for about 63% of pollution, but very few actually do something to reduce that percentage. Realizing this, Patagonia addresses a vital yet extremely pollutant ridden part of a business, which is the supply chain. This means getting down to the source; they fund farmers of organic cotton fields who otherwise wouldn’t get financing, use recycled products to serve as their raw material, take back their worn or damaged products, fix them, and re-sell them. As an end result, they have developed what can be recognized as a mini “green” economy, one that can be sustainable, beneficial, and even profitable for future generations of consumers and small businesses that want to follow in their footsteps.
In 2013, the now globally known company launched something called “Tin Shed Ventures” as an internal investment fund. The purpose of this is to lend a hand to small businesses with leaders who are motivated entrepreneurs, and to start-up companies that use business to benefit and give back to the environment. Avoiding handing off large sums to only a few causes and groups, they instead disperse smaller grants that range between $2,500 – $15,000—to hundreds of groups every year, and on top of this, donate 1% of their sales to environmentally driven organizations around the world.
While Patagonia continues to come out with new clothing, they also provide a different type of “line” that exists under the umbrella of products. Their WornWear line. Not so typical of a huge global company, they take back worn down, damaged, ripped apparel or gear and repair it and put it up for sale, making an effort to limit a number of reparable goods that end up in the landfill. Additionally, since 2005, Patagonia has recycled over 95 tons of clothing and will continue to do so as a leader and role model for clothing and gear companies worldwide.