There is More than Meets the Eye in Patagonia’s Bold Activism
Few other companies have been so closely associated with environmental causes than Patagonia. When the company announced this month that it would donate all its profits — averaging more than $100 million a year — to the Earth, consumers around the world saw the move as confirmation of its principles and values. The outdoor apparel company has made environmental protection and activism core to its operating procedure and company principles since the beginning. While the decision is certainly historic, the details are a little more revealing. What’s clear is the corporate responsibility initiatives have been flipped on their head in the wake of this bold gesture.
Environmental protections have long been core to Patagonia’s brand. The company has revolutionized the clothing industry through the use of recycled fabrics and other environmentally-friendly manufacturing standards. Such standards come with a cost and that has led to prohibitively high price tags for many of Patagonia’s items, which include everything from fleece tops to surfing wetsuits (using special environmentally friendly natural rubber, of course). The cost for items is so high that many joke the company should be called “patagucci”.
Bucking the trend of excessive consumerism, Patagonia recently started pushing customers to repair their existing Patagonia clothes instead of buying new ones. The repair and reuse campaign falls neatly into the company’s iconoclastic business approach. In an interview with Fast Company Magazine, Yvon Chouinard, the billionaire founder of the company said he was “an avowed socialist. I’m proud of it. That was a dirty word just a few years ago until Bernie Sanders brought it up.”
Selling $400 jackets to wealthy consumers while aspiring to socialist values is a fascinating position. What’s more interesting in terms of Patagonia’s branding is the company’s long-standing contracts with the US military. The company has a dedicated team, supporting the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) with delivering US-made technical cold weather and combat uniforms. It doesn’t stop there.The company, which has been vocal on a variety of political issues in the US, has a special tactical clothing division called Lost Arrow, which works closely with various US police departments. The company…