Words by Megan Whitehead
In September 2022, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard announced he was giving away ownership of the company and donating the money to a trust which will use the profits to combat climate change. As one of the biggest clothing brands in the world, this decision has attracted a lot of positive attention and rightly so – it’s a great incentive and it sends the right message to other companies and customers that more should be done for the environment.
The app ‘Good on You’ has given Patagonia a 4/5-star sustainability rating based on their relationships with the planet, people, and animals. The company’s mission statement is to ‘build the best product, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crises. They are also one of the few companies which offer a lifetime warranty and free repair service, and all of this at face value looks very progressive and sustainable and exactly what the world needs in a time of pressing ecological issues.
Even Patagonia’s chairman, Charles Conn, says that “instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth, we are using the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source”. So why am I still not convinced that this is what the planet needs?
I do think that the decision to donate the profits to charities that are helping to combat climate change, but it seems almost paradoxical for a company that has created their enormous wealth through extraction and destruction of the environment. I admire the step in the right direction, but I am not convinced that a multinational cooperation could ever be truly green. In 2016, after Trump’s victory, Patagonia pledged that they would donate all their Black Friday profits to good causes, but was this not just a way to sell more products? It seems the more Patagonia has campaigned their sustainability pitch, the bigger the business has grown. Their campaigns of ‘don’t buy this jacket’, urging customers to reuse and recycle instead seem to have the opposite effect and bring in more customers rather than turning them away.
I think the effort to make more responsible choices is commendable, and it is something that everyone should consider if they are able to. But Patagonia’s branding of sustainability feels slightly green-washed. A business isn’t sustainable, because sustainable implies you are giving something back rather than taking something away. The most sustainable choice you can make is to not buy something new if you have the option to. Of course, this isn’t always possible, and if you buy something new then responsible and more ethical brands like Patagonia are great investments. Just a little food for thought.
Featured Image Courtesy of Beloved Brands (https://beloved-brands.com/patagonia/)