Why Patagonia's Founder Gave Away the Company
“Truth be told, there were no good options available. So, we created our own.”
For Patagonia, a half century of defining outdoor clothing styles while redefining corporate social responsibility has crescendoed. Founder Yvon Chouinard and his family have given away the entire company as part of their epic plan to combat climate change.
“Instead of ‘going public,’ you could say we’re ‘going purpose,’” Chouinard wrote in a letter explaining the unprecedented move. “Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.
The Chouinards gave all their voting stock to a trust that will ensure business as usual at Patagonia (which includes giving away all profits for charitable purposes), and all nonvoting shares to a nonprofit that will preserve wildlands, fund climate volunteerism, and confront the institutions responsible for global warming.
“Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” Chouinard told The New York Times. “We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.”
THIS RAISES THE BAR FOR CSR
Chouinard is legendary in the social impact space for his unwavering and vocal commitment to the environment. Patagonia was among the first companies to commit to donating part of its annual profits for charitable purposes. But the gift of his entire $3 billion company already has purpose-minded business leaders like Deed co-founder Deevee Kashi asking: Where does corporate social responsibility (CSR) go from here?
“Companies are looking at Patagonia right now wondering how or if this moonshot will turn into a movement,” Kashi said. “Every day, more social impact programs are centering their company’s values, leveraging its superpower, and taking every opportunity to be inclusive of employees and the communities they serve. That’s the kind of program that will drive more direct impact and ultimately use this momentum to do more good.”
From Patagonia to adidas and Airbnb, the world’s top companies are investing heavily to combat climate change—not just because it’s good for business (though it is, since some sustainable brands are growing as much as 69 percent faster than their competitors)—but because, as Yvon Chouinard writes, “We can save our planet if we commit to it.”
Deed is a social impact platform designed to bring our work and volunteer lives together with one fun, powerful platform. Request a demo now to see how we can raise the bar for CSR together.