Patagonia – A company that cares
On a recent trip to California I ventured into Ventura, a small surfer’s town just north of Los Angeles. Aside from being quintessentially surf-orientated (some of California’s best surf breaks are within a few miles), Ventura is also home to my favourite company in the world, Patagonia. I realise this is a bold statement, but there are fewer companies in the world that are positively influencing the world as much as them.
Their founder, Yvon Chouinard wrote a fabulous book that I’m currently reading, Let My People Go Surfing, which was originally written as a manual to be read by all new Patagonia employees. It now serves as an insight into his company and their philosophies, but on a grander scale, as a guidebook to running an ethical and environmentally proactive business.
After a day guiding on the road bikes, Dave and I wandered down to their flagship store in Ventura, The Great Pacific Iron Works.
Patagonia strive to minimise their impact on the environment and this is essentially a driving force behind everything they do. A keystone of their Philosophy of Architecture is that they won’t “build a new building unless it’s absolutely necessary” and “try to save old or historic building from being torn down”. Their dedication towards minimising their impact on the environment is therefore present before you’ve even entered through the door.
Inside the store to the right of the checkout was a small desk with a plastic storage box and a strange-looking tool sat on top.
This is their repair station, which is common in most of their stores throughout the world. Their “Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle” philosophy is behind everything they do. Take any broken Patagonia product into one of these stores and they will repair it. In a society that consumes products that in a few years are rendered obsolete or have been so poorly made that they fail, the simple and long-forgotten process of fixing things before replacing is a truly wonderful thing.
In 2011, Patagonia ran an ad on Black Friday which they called Don’t Buy This Jacket featuring an image of their best selling R2 fleece jacket.
The paragraphs below the headline and the image of the fleece explained to customers why on the biggest day in retail they should reconsider buying one of their flagship products. That we’re currently using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on earth, heading towards environmental bankruptcy and details the actual environmental impact that producing and shipping a fleece like the R2 actually costs the earth. It’s a powerful statement and testament to the integrity of the business.
I’m in the last fifth of Chouinard’s book and I don’t want it to end. The lessons I’ve learnt from it are unforgettable and inspiring. There is no way I can summarise and dilute the wealth of knowledge and creative thinking into a blog post (and wouldn’t want to), but highly recommend reading it.
If only more companies and people would take as much responsibility and action for the world we live in. I’ll certainly be striving to do better.
“Together we imagine a world where we take only what nature can replace”
Ventura Sunset, October 2017