Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, has just given his company away. As he says, “instead of ‘going public’, you could say we’re ‘going purpose’.” Transferring the entire billion-dollar business to a trust “dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature” is the latest example of how they are reimagining capitalism.
Patagonia are a company I have long admired. They openly confront the tension of both being a clothing company and thereby contributing to the climate crisis, and also deeply caring for the environment, so wanting to change the way business is done.
This tension is something we all face. I care about the environment, but I also drive a diesel car, fly, drink fancy coffee, own an expensive phone, and much more. In short – I’m a consumer. I look for ways to balance my consumption with my values – and sometimes it goes well … but other times, I’m a complete hypocrite.
What’s important is that I don’t use my hypocrisy as an excuse to do nothing. “Oh, it’s really hard, and ultimately I’m only one person anyway, so I won’t bother.” Yvon Chouinard could have done that when he started making climbing equipment back in the 1950s. He could have said “oh, it’s really hard to do this differently, and it’s only me, so I won’t bother.” But he didn’t. And now, many decades later, he is leaving an extraordinary legacy.
Few of us will leave a legacy as large as Chouinard’s, but I believe the most important piece is how they push boundaries and challenge conventional thinking. That’s the inspiration for me. I will continue to learn from companies like Patagonia, and apply those same ideas in my business and the organisations I work with.
Businesses of all sizes have a role to play in fixing the problems we have created.
Let’s get to work.
PS Image shows my recently repaired Patagonia hoodie. It all counts.