Founded in California in 1973 by climber Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia
has grown to become a global brand, and one of the most recognised
and admired names in outdoorwear. From the beginning Patagonia
has famously been very comfortable in mixing business with politics,
frequently taking a stand on issues and actions it sees as ethically
or environmentally wrong. It calls itself ‘The Activist Company’.
In recent years Patagonia’s brand reputation has continued to be
forged not just in mission and fierce beliefs, but in the fire of bold
political actions – closing stores on election day to encourage people
to vote, donating its US$10m tax cut to environmental groups to help
fight the causes of climate change, and even suing the Trump
administration for stealing public land. Since 1985 Patagonia has
pledged 1% of all annual sales to the preservation of the natural
environment through its ‘1% for the Planet’ initiative; to date it’s
given away US$89m to grassroots environmental groups in its
mission to save our home planet.
The big idea: ‘Who stole your land?’
In December 2017, President Trump announced plans to sharply
reduce the size of two protected lands in Utah by around two
million acres. Within hours of the announcement Patagonia updated
the homepage of its website to display a simple black screen with
the words: ‘The President Stole Your Land.’ Patagonia viewed the
Presidential decision as an assault on public lands, an ‘illegal’ move
which would potentially open up historic and protected areas to
drilling for oil and gas. The clothing company took the government
to task on social media, and through its dedicated homepage urged
customers to tell the government the move was illegal. 150,000
of them responded.
And as ‘The Activist Company’, it didn’t stop at simply calling out
the government. Elevating its response to the controversial decision
one step further, Patagonia filed a lawsuit against the President.
This is yet to be formally responded to.
Patagonia famously demonstrates the power of being genuinely
driven by a mission. Its communication, advertising and decisionmaking
are not orientated simply around sales or business gain, but
action for a sustainable and healthier planet. Becoming, reportedly,
a US$1bn turnover business is, in a very real sense, the consequence
of this challenger’s relentless commitment to its mission.