Patagonia, with 39 stores in seven countries, works hard at achieving that delicate balance. It offers an on-site day-care center at its headquarters and full medical benefits to all employees, including part-timers. When the surf's up, Chouinard himself urges people to hit the beach. At the same time, the company demands hard work, creativity, collaboration, and results. Management isn't shy about axing employees who aren't up to snuff.
This year, Patagonia has partnered with the rock band, Wilco, the non-profit HeadCount and the League of Conservation Voters to achieve the campaign's objectives. The company will also launch a Twitter campaign around the hashtag #becauseilove. People at Wilco shows, in Patagonia retail stores and online will be encouraged to tweet messages and images that complete the sentence "I vote the environment because I love …" in order to personalize the environmental issues at stake in this election. The #becauseilove tweets will be displayed in real-time at Wilco shows, in Patagonia stores across the country and online at Patagonia.com thanks to a technology partnership with Austin-based social integration company Mass Relevance.
Working with James Walsh, a graduate student researcher from the University of Washington, we developed a
method for assigning dollar costs to environmental and public health impacts. The research validated our intuitive assertion that the environmental costs of conventional cotton outweighs the price differential (for raw cotton) between conventional and organic. The research gave quantitative support to our earlier findings that home laundry caused the greatest level of impacts across the life cycle (outweighing all other impacts combined) and that growing, dyeing and finishing, and transportation were the next most significant contributors to environmental degradation (Walsh and Brown 1996)
Patagonia, a maker of high-end outdoor wear, substituted organic cotton for conventionally grown cotton in all of its sportswear (i.e., casual clothing for travel and leisure) in 1996. We find that customers were willing to pay significant premiums for organic cotton garments although the organic cotton provided no demonstrable private incremental benefits to the customer.
A key element of Patagonia's approach has been the development of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology utilizing principles developed by Dr. Michael Braungart and Professor William McDonough of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry. The LCA contains six components: product design, material selection, production processes, distribution, product maintenance, and 'end of life'.
Our present mode of production includes buying organic cotton in Turkey, shipping the bales to Thailand to be processed into fabric, shipping the fabric to Texas to be cut, to Mexico to be sewn, on to our warehouse in Reno, then to our stores and dealers, and finally to our customers' homes.
Because most of Patagonia's products are made in Asia or Latin America and sold in the U.S., the company expected that a big chunk of the carbon footprints came from transportation. It was wrong.The fabric for the Talus is made in China, the zippers come from Japan, and the jacket is sewn in Vietnam. Yet all that transportation adds up to less than 1% of the product's total carbon footprint, Patagonia says. The majority of the footprint -- 71%, or about 47 pounds -- comes in producing the polyester, which originates with oil.
When Patagonia opened a retail store in a restored building in Boston, the employees complained of headaches. Assuming it was only a problem with the building, Chouinard was shocked to find out it was a combination of the merchandise being in a poorly ventilated space. Consequently, tests of the four main fibers used in Patagonia clothing yielded even more shocking results. Cotton, seemingly the most natural of the four, was the worse offender of the environment. Fabric labeled as 100% cotton was really only 73% cotton, the other 27% was toxic chemicals used in the process of growing, picking, and making cotton garments washable, wrinkle free, etc. From this discovery, Chouinard created an Environmental Philosophy for Patagonia.
Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia's founder, got his start as a climber in 1953 as a 14-year-old member of the Southern California Falconry Club, which trained hawks and falcons for hunting. After one of the adult leaders, Don Prentice, taught the boys how to rappel down the cliffs to the falcon aeries, Yvon and his friends became so fond of the sport they started hopping freight trains to the west end of the San Fernando Valley, to the sandstone cliffs of Stoney Point. There, eventually, they learned to climb up as well as rappel down the rock.
Patagonia Inc. has teamed with The Nature Conservancy Argentina and Ovis XXI to promote the conservation of natural grasslands and their surrounding environment.The deal is pretty straight forward: Patagonia commits to buy sustainable wool from Ovis XXI, while this organization certifies that the product comes from responsible producers that are keeping and restoring their natural grasslands, and keeps instructing them along with The Nature Conservancy.