How do we cope with the idea that to be
in business means we are polluters and
hurting the planet? Everything man does
creates more harm than good. We have to accept that fact and not delude ourselves into
thinking something is sustainable. Then you
can try to achieve a situation where you’re
causing the least amount of harm possible.
That’s the spin we put on it. It’s a never-ending
summit. You’re just climbing forever. You’ll
never get to the top, but it’s the journey.
About eight months ago, you wrote a
new mission statement for the company: “Patagonia is in business to save
our home planet.” What impact has that
had so far? It’s affected every single person’s
job. Some more than others, but it’s got everybody thinking. We’ve made a commitment
to be fossil-fuel-free by 2025. We’re invested
in companies that are working on growing synthetic fibers, stuff made from plants
rather than petroleum. We’re not just cleaning up our act in our own buildings and stuff;
we’re going around to our suppliers and convincing them to use cleaner energy. Then
we’re continuing to work on saving large
areas of the planet that capture a lot of carbon. I’m personally working on a new state
park down at the tip of South America, about
800,000 acres of peat bogs and swamps and
200,000 acres of sea, that sequesters more
carbon than almost anywhere in the world.
Ten years ago, you started getting into
the food space, launching Patagonia
“YOU WANT THE TRUTH? IT’S HOPELESS. IT’S COM;
pletely hopeless.” That’s what Patagonia founder and
chairman Yvon Chouinard told the L.A. Times about
the plight of the earth amid climate change. In 1994.
Regardless, Chouinard and his company have spent
decades—and millions of dollars—fighting for environmental causes around the world while investing in
more sustainable business practices. What’s more, Patagonia has embraced and promoted the B Corporation movement, while Chouinard led such efforts as 1%
for the Planet, a collective of companies that pledged
to donate 1% of profits to environmental groups and
has raised more than $225 million since 2002. Meanwhile, over the past 46 years, Patagonia has become
a billion-dollar global brand, making it the ultimate
do-good-and-do-well company. ¶ But Chouinard remains unsatisfied. The 81-year-old is more focused
than ever on demonstrating, by Patagonia’s example,
the lengths a company can go to protect the planet.
During a break from fishing near his Wyoming home,
Chouinard is both passionate and wry in discussing
his business philosophy, what we get wrong about
sustainability, why he’s so excited about regenerative
agriculture, and Patagonia’s rising political machine.
The secret to fighting climate change
Patagonia is helping to lead the shi; to regenerative agriculture, which sequesters carbon rather than producing it. Here’s how it works.
1. Create healthy soil
plants use solar energy
to extract carbohydrate
molecules, or sugar,
3. Plant cover crops
In between seasons of
growing cash crops such
as cotton, farmers culti-
vate cover crops such as
from carbon dioxide.
sugars are extruded
from the plant’s roots,
feeding bacteria and
fungi into the nearby
soil. Those microorgan-
isms turn soil minerals
into nutrients that feed
plants and fight disease.
2. Avoid pesticides
To keep the soil as
healthy as possible,
growers eschew chemi-
cals (akin to organic farm-
ing), relying instead on
hanging lights at night to
physically removing and
killing insects by hand.