Patagonia’s bold move sets a precedent for fashion moguls everywhere

Patagonia’s bold move sets a precedent for fashion moguls everywhere

Photo credit: A model wearing a Patagonia jacket.  Vanni Bassetti - Getty Images

Photo credit: A model wearing a Patagonia jacket. Vanni Bassetti – Getty Images

In rare and surprising good news for the sustainable fashion movement, outdoor apparel brand Patagonia announced an earlier decision this week. Brand founder, 83-year-old Yvon Chouinard, is donating the $ 3 billion company to two environmental organizations. “The Earth is now our only shareholder”, Chouinard began in a declaration released this week.

This means that 98% of Patagonia’s shares will go to the Holdfast Collective, a fledgling non-profit organization that will invest in the protection of nature, biodiversity and communities. All shares will be non-voting, which means the collective will have no input on how Patagonia is run. The remaining 2% will go to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, which will be managed by members of the Chouinard family to ensure that the brand continues to operate with the mission and values ​​established nearly 50 years ago. The family, which previously made about $ 100 million annually, will no longer receive that money.

Photo credit: Ben Gabbe - Getty Images

Photo credit: Ben Gabbe – Getty Images

Patagonia has long been a philanthropic business; was one of the first to adopt the B-Corp movement and its founder helped establish it 1% for the Planet in 2002, but a clothing company has never made a move of this magnitude before. Chouinard says that instead of going public or selling the business and donating the profits – which would leave the family unable to control the future of Patagonia – they came up with an entirely new solution. “Instead of ‘going public’, you could say we are ‘becoming a purpose’,” he said in the statement. “Instead of extracting value from nature and turning it into wealth for investors, we will use the wealth created by Patagonia to protect the source of all wealth.”

Undoubtedly, Chouinard’s decision makes perfect sense for Patagonia because protecting nature has always been part of the brand’s DNA. Chouinard is also self-described “Existential filth” who never wanted to be a businessman, let alone a billionaire in the first place. He drives an old Subaru and has no phone or computer, according to New York Times. It is, by all accounts, an outlier as far as billionaires are concerned.

Photo credit: Pool / Max Mumby - Getty Images

Photo credit: Pool / Max Mumby – Getty Images

Yet his decision seems important because it is an unusual display of radical dedication to a cause. In an industry filled with greenwashing, performative sustainability, and climate goals that are neither achievable nor ambitious, its rejection of the status quo is strengthening. In the same week, Kourtney Kardashian Barker launched her ‘sustainable’ collection with fast fashion brand Boohoo (yes, the same Boohoo who was caught paying clothing workers in Leicester £ 3.50 an hour during pandemic). Encouragingly, the critique of this problematic (in more ways than one) collaboration has been loud and clear. The public has had enough.

There is no shortage of billionaires who have made a fortune in fashion. According to List of Forbes 2022 billionaires, the global industry has produced some 250 billionaires, and Chouinard’s bold commitment to the environment will no doubt catch their attention. The question is will they follow suit?

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