Listen up corporate world: Yvon Chouinard continues to kick your collective ass. I’ve always suspected he’s a crazy man, and likely a jerk. And I’ve always loved him anyway. His rockstar brand, Patagonia (heard of it?), continues to garner 20, 30, even 40% price premiums over products equal in performance. Why? Because it’s Patagonia, dammit. And he’s Yvon Chouinard. A quirky old stalwart, he sticks to one thing and one thing only: himself. He wants to create sweet gear and make tons of money from it to fund his expeditions to wherever the hell he pleases. He wants to employ folks who think like he does. He doesn’t care if there isn’t a Patagonia in your town and you wish there was one. He’s happy riiiight where he is. He refuses to consider an IPO – no way he’ll answer to someone other than Chouinard.
The result? He makes fleeces out of recycled bottles and you buy zillions of them. Zillions.
Patagonia has always had an environmental bent – not because they think they “should,” but because Chouinard is out there in the environment doing environmental things and this stuff matters to him. He’ll never create an environmentally friendly product that won’t sell. He will fully utilize virgin materials that are entirely unrecyclable if he needs them to fill a price point. Chouinard isn’t an environmentalist – he’s a self-interested rational opportunist witha penchant for mountain climbing. And this is a very good thing.
I cringe at being labeled an environmentalist. Who wants to be the kooky creep chained to a tree or throwing paint at J. Mendel furs? Environmentalism has gotten ugly, and CSR has gone astray. Why? Because most companies aren’t run by Yvon Chouinard. They don’t get it. The initiatives they choose don’t make sense, and the result is unnecessary profit loss and looking stupid.
Patagonia does this thing called the “Footprint Chronicles.” Right on the front page they state, “there is no such thing as sustainable business.” Shocked? You shouldn’t be. We have to consume to survive – whether it be messenger bags or commodity staples. Go further into the “Chronicles” and you find the Chacabuco Pack. Check out “the bad:”
That’s right. “The nylon is virgin, its polyurethane coating solvent rather than water-based. The pack is not recyclable.” Basically: this pack is cheap and crap for the environment. Go ahead and buy it anyway – we know a bunch of you will, as it’s catered precisely to a price point in a “crowded market.” At least he’s honest – no company’s perfect, not even close. If they are, not only are they obnoxious and likely lying, but they’re definitely not going to last long. But don’t despair – your favorite R2 Jacket is right beside Chacabuco. Long live Patagonia.