We’re all aware that the earth is on the wrong trajectory when it comes to looking after the environment. And we’re uncomfortably aware, too, that relentless over-consumption of products isn’t the way to change things—however satisfying it might feel to click “buy” on the latest must-have item.
Brands are on the same journey, too—trying to become more earth-friendly, but aware that their raison d’être is often to make us buy stuff that we don’t need, and that contributes to the problem. One company that’s always been fighting for environmental issues is Patagonia, which was started almost 50 years ago by climber Yvon Chouinard.
The brand was one of the first to be transparent about its environmental footprint and donate a portion of sales to environmental charities. It’s a certified B Corp, has its values in its corporate charter, and resells used goods in order to reduce consumption. In 2018, it made the strongest statement yet: that it’s in business to save our home planet.
Now Chouinard is really putting his money where his mouth is, announcing that he’s giving the whole business to the earth. What that means? All the voting stock (the stuff that makes the decisions) is going to a trust that will protect the company’s values. All the non-voting stock (the stuff that makes the money) is going to a collective dedicated to defending nature. Each year, every dollar made after reinvesting in the business will go toward fighting our climate crisis.
“Instead of ‘going public,’ you could say we’re ‘going purpose,’” Chouinard explained in an open letter. “Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.”
At a time when many of us are feeling bleak about the path our planet is on, it gives us hope. That this might actually do something meaningful to address the issues. That Patagonia’s move might inspire other purpose-led brands. And most of all, that there are good people out there, prepared to make sacrifices and do the work to save our future—and that of our children. —Aileen Lalor