Patagonia's commitment to the planet
Patagonia founder and billionaire Yvon Chouinard, said any profit not reinvested in running the business would go to fighting climate change. Is this a smart move? is this greenwashing? are other companies going to follow? Here are some of my thoughts on it.
Now you probably saw every other post on LinkedIn talking about this headline a few weeks back because it did truly spark everyone’s attention, partly down to how no brand have done anything like this before. However, is there a reason for that? Before I delve into the subject more, if by some reason you haven’t heard about this, in short summary, Patagonia have decided to make planet earth its only shareholder with all profits (roughly £87m a year) being donated to climate causes. It’s a very large statement for Patagonia to make, and I think because of the size of it, there will be people checking where every penny goes to make sure this isn’t just a greenwashing publicity stunt.
Although straight away, I can safely say I don’t think that’s what this is. Considering in the same month UK fast fashion brand, Boohoo, appointed Kourtney Kardashian as its new sustainability ambassador. For context – this is the brand who promote having a new outfit for every occasion assigning an extremely expensive celebrity endorsement which some argue the money which was used for this deal to have been put towards a better cause.
Yes, having a Kardashian as a spokesperson for a brand will bring a lot of attention to the cause, and out of all the Kardashian sisters, she’s the one who gets praised for flying commercial instead of in a private jet. However, the whole concept of this merge, to me, is the literal definition of greenwashing. Boohoo don’t give a crap about the planet, because if they did, they would stop their entire operations and reconsider the way they produce their products.
But back to Patagonia, with their long history of support for the planet with campaigns including ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ which encouraged people not to just buy ‘stuff’ for the sake of it on Black Friday, this power move although shocking, hasn’t come out of the blue. Everyone has known the brand to be outgoing and adventurous in relation to environmental rights, but this is one step further to really speak up using their platform to highlight the climate crisis we’re living in.
The “maverick’ founder Yvon Chouinard has always been more committed to the environment than “simply making money”. Is he changing the way we will see businesses running? For centuries, the main purpose of a business is to make money but could more brands switch to this method and follow in Patagonia’s footsteps?
While I think this is something more brands should do, I don’t think any will (at least not for now) as they don’t want to do it just to join the bandwagon. The reason why Patagonia gained a lot of respect for this was down to the fact no one asked them to do it or pressured them into doing it. Whereas brands who follow will get criticised for just ‘copying’ after seeing all the great publicity Patagonia are receiving and the intention behind it won’t be for the planet, instead for good PR.
In summary, did this move make me want to shop at Patagonia? Yes, it did. The brand has always been openly sustainable by offering an alternative to fast fashion, but this has put them ahead of the game. While there is the argument that the whole stunt has been done for good PR with people thinking “why didn’t they just donate that much in private?” I think it’s important for consumers to know so that they can actively support Patagonia because they know where their money is going. They know how the clothes are being made and who is making them.
While I’m not saying all brands should donate all their profits to charity, it’s important to see that it is possible. Not only that, it’s also important to see how far brands are willing to go to show their support, particularly when it comes to the environment and sustainability. It’s very easy to produce one or two green campaigns or a line of green products that can easily be considered greenwashing as they don’t provide much impact (if any) on the planet. Whereas this shows change can be made and that if you care about the planet, there are things you can do about it.