Patagonia has long been revered by those in the industry who believe fashion can be a force for good. But founder Yvon Chouinard has taken his vision of what a responsible business should look like one step further, by giving away his entire company – believed to be worth $3 billion (£2.6 billion) – in a bid to tackle the climate crisis.
“It’s been a half-century since we began our experiment,” Chouinard, 83, said in a statement. “If we have any hope of a thriving planet 50 years from now, it demands all of us doing all we can with the resources we have. As the business leader I never wanted to be, I am doing my part. Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth, we are using the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source. We’re making Earth our only shareholder. I am dead serious about saving this planet.”
Chouinard and his family have handed 98 per cent of their shares to a newly-created non-profit, named the Holdfast Collective, which will now receive an estimated $100 million (£86 million) a year – comprising all the profits from Patagonia that aren’t ‘t invested back into the company. The remaining two per cent of their shares have been transferred to a trust, which is designed to ensure the company is staying true to its purpose and values.
The outdoors company, which achieved B-Corp status back in 2012, will continue to donate one per cent of all its sales every year to grassroot activists. Meanwhile, the Holdfast Collective will use all its funds to “protect nature and biodiversity, support thriving communities and fight the environmental crisis.”
Founded by Chouinard, a former rock climber, in Ventura, California, in 1973, Patagonia has been a trailblazer in the industry for the past 50 years, with the company first donating 10 per cent of its profits to grassroot groups working to save or restore habitats back in 1986. Never afraid to go against the grain, the brand famously placed an advert in the New York Times on Black Friday in 2011, with the tagline: “Don’t buy this jacket”. Ahead of the 2020 election in the US, Patagonia released a pair of shorts that had “Vote the assholes out” written on the tag.
With the climate crisis becoming ever more urgent, Patagonia and Chouinard have put forward a truly radical new way of doing business. Let’s see if any other companies in the fashion industry, and beyond, follow suit.
This article first appeared on vogue.co.uk
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