Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. ?Patagonia’s Mission Statement
I take pride in my company’s commitment to the environment, our generosity to non-profit organizations of our employees’ choosing, and our focus on developing core values for the organization. However, I am truly humbled by the effort one of our major suppliers makes in the realm of giving back to the community of the world.
We have had a long relationship with Patagonia. They produce excellent product, with an undying guarantee. They are one of the best companies with which one can work.
However, it is their environmental record and their philanthropy that makes them stand out among the greats in industry and I would have to say they are the best at giving back to the community. To really get a feel for this, you need to understand what they do.
Patagonia had a turning point in the 1980’s that changed the culture of the company. As they report it,
. . . before we started our environmental assessment program and began leading ‘an examined life ‘ we blindly made our clothes like every other apparel company. In the spring of 1988 we retrofitted an old building in Boston on Newbury Street and opened our third Patagonia store. Within days our employees there began complaining of headaches during their shifts. An air quality analysis found that the building?s ventilation system was simply recycling the same air and that the formaldehyde and other chemicals used on our cotton T-shirts to prevent shrinkage and wrinkling was poisoning our staff.
Most other garment companies at the time would have fixed the ventilation and closed their minds to the formaldehyde problem. But that incident bothered us enough that we began working with select growers and processors to create an organic cotton supply for our products. Along the way we found out a great deal about what goes into making our clothes. We helped form the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to trace every step in making an article of clothing so that we can make intelligent decisions and cause less harm to ourselves and to the planet.”
To me that is leadership in its best form. But before this happened they had started their strong commitment to non-profits. In 1985 they pledged 1% of gross sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. Since then they have awarded over $46 million in cash and in-kind donations to domestic and international grassroots environmental groups to help make a difference in their local communities. In 2002 founder of Patagonia Yvon Chouinard and Craig Mathews owner of Blue Ribbon Flies created “1%For The Planet®” to encourage other businesses to do the same.
The story continues endlessly it seems and you can read about their efforts on their website but one last story highlights how thinking differently can make for some good business. Usually you hear of environmental groups and companies at loggerheads over an issue. One seldom hears of a major corporation leading the charge to restore nature. But that is just what Patagonia is doing with Dam De-construction.
Following the ideas of former secretary of the Department of the Interior Bruce Babbitt; Yvon Chouinard has been donating money and effort to remove dams in rivers one dam at a time. His eye is firmly set on the Matilija Dam which is just up the road from the headquarters of Patagonia. He wants to see it torn down to restore the spawning grounds of the steelhead trout up the Ventura River into Matilija Creek. The dam is still there but I am convinced he will make it happen. He has helped develop a strong coalition of people to facilitate the effort.
No matter what whether it is offering employees $2 500 towards the purchase of a 45-mpg+ hybrid vehicle or diesel to veg-oil conversion or constructing a totally LEED certified Customer Service Center or tracking the supply chain back to the origin Patagonia is committed to the ideal of doing good business that causes no unnecessary harm to the environment. If they can do it with their enormous global supply chain so can all the other companies in the world. It would make for a better world ? one that we all can enjoy.
Image Credit: Rebecca Caldwell from the patagonia.com website