Patagonia – it pays to care

Patagonia’s Mission Statement:

“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Named after a mountainous region in Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is a private company known as a worldwide leader of environmentally responsible business. The company’s environmental commitment arises from founder Yvon Chouinard’s own experiences whilst climbing of damage done to the rocks.

They make multifunctional silent sports clothing and equipment enabling customers to consume less, but better. Products are vigorously field-tested by professional athletes with product development primarily focusing on: quality, environmental impact and innovation. Each product has a distinct function with models being updated every couple of years to ensure a significant improvement. Heavy investment in research and development means that they now hold numerous patents. Every step of the manufacturing process is examined to ensure they are best focusing their effort with the Footprint Chronicles documenting their supply chain with a game-changing level of transparency.

Not only does the company invest in its own reduced impact, it also invests in other environmental groups via 1 Percent for the Planet (co-founded by Patagonia’s own Yvon Chouinard), a means by which companies donate 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes. Yet again they go further, sharing their broad sustainability practices and advising to influence other companies from Nike to Wal-Mart.

The company attempts to create a mutual contract of care between themselves and their customers, their ironclad guarantee covers repair, refunds and the replacement of any product that does not meet customer’s satisfaction. Providing best care information and DIY repair guides to increase product lifespan, their care centre in Nevada completes around 40,000 repairs each year. Further to this they encourage owners to give away their garments before returning them to stores for recycling and repurposing into new products of equal value.

Spending less than 1% of revenue on marketing, they use such opportunities to incorporate educational messages. As to use it’s environmental reputation to promote consumerism would go against the company’s core principle, with Chouinard and the brand as a whole calling for reduced consumption of products (see their black Friday ad above). The company’s environmental stance generates free marketing in itself (hello there), whilst further press coverage further comes from their political stance on both social and environmental issues.

Keeping environmental concern at the heart of decision-making has always proved to be good business in the long term, giving the company its competitive advantage. Such decisions may be viewed by some however as a risk to profitability in the short term (which they can be) leading to loss of competitive advantage. By making the need to address to the world’s environmental crisis as the most important feature of their mission statement they have made themselves accountable for hard, time-consuming and expensive decisions. In 1996 they decided to go all organic cotton – causing a decreased product line due to limited availability and initial loss of profits due to increased costs. They did not offer anti-odor clothing until they felt they had the right technology, despite this meaning that they were a few years behind the wider market (crushed crab shells in case you were wondering). However such decisions have kept their credibility and allowed them to charge a premium of roughly 20% higher than other outdoor apparel and 50% higher than mass-market brands for comparable products.

Patagonia pays great thought and care to the entire product lifecycle in order to make each item of the best possible quality at the lowest cost to the environment. Successfully proving that it can pay to place environmental concerns at the core of every decision, they have achieved this all with modesty, importantly acknowledging that they give less back to the earth than they take.

Patagonia_Better_Than_New

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