The founder of the outdoor brand Patagonia sold his ownership in the business and directed his profits to combat climate change.
Yvon Chouinard, who became famous for alpine climbing in Yosemite National Park and then as a manufacturer of outdoor gear, has transferred the ownership of his Patagonian family to two new entities, one of which is a non-profit organization that will use the annual profits from activities to combat climate change, the company said in a press release Wednesday.
“Instead of extracting value from nature and turning it into wealth, we are using the wealth created by Patagonia to protect the source. We are making the Earth our sole shareholder,” said Chouinard, 83, in the statement.
In a letter to clients, Chouinard said Patagonia is now owned by a trust that will determine the direction of the company and a new non-profit group called Holdfast Collective, which is dedicated to protecting nature and other environmental causes.
The leadership of the company has not changed.
“Even if we are doing our best to address the environmental crisis, it is not enough,” Chouinard wrote. “… Every year the money we earn after reinvesting in the company will be distributed as dividends to help fight the crisis.”
The company expects to contribute approximately $ 100 million to the Holdfast Collective through an annual dividend depending on the success of the companies.
In a question and answer section attached to Chouinard’s letter, the company said Patagonia continues to be a for-profit business as a certified B Corp, a designation for companies that consider factors such as the social and environmental impact of their business.
He also said the Chouinard family will continue to “lead the Patagonia Purpose Trust, elect and oversee its leadership” and sit on the Patagonia board of directors. The company “will continue to do its best to be a great employer.”
Denis Hayes, who coordinated the first Earth Day and later became the CEO of Seattle’s environment-focused Bullitt Foundation, said Chouinard has long been a jarring environmentalist willing to make bold moves and defy convention. . The Patagonia brand, Hayes noted, charges a premium, in part, because of the values it represents.
“Apparently, they are putting it into the framework that will institutionalize it beyond its lifetime,” said Hayes, whose foundation runs a for-profit building it claims is the greenest in the world.
Hayes said that companies in manufacturing or extractive industries in a capitalist economy that requires growth eventually conflict with environmental and climate values.
“The concept of putting this together in a new structure and being experimental and bold is exactly the kind of innovation we have to try,” Hayes said.
Chouinard began selling climbing equipment such as pitons in 1957, usually out of his car.
Subsequently, Chouinard became an advocate of so-called “clean climbing”, in which protective equipment is placed and removed in the rock walls so that it does not cause damage from the hammer of the nails.
He holds several patents, including one for aluminum climbing wedges designed to cause less rock destruction.
This article was originally posted on NBCNews.com