Patagonia’s Case: Selling a Business to Save the Earth
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From heatwaves to coral bleaching, the news about the environment is almost never positive. But there are some rare exceptions. In September 2022, Patagonia’s 83-year-old founder, Yvon Chouinard, donated his ownership to a green non-profit organisation to fight climate change. From now on, all of the company’s profits — about $100 million a year — will be invested in eco-projects.
Explaining his decision, Chouinard said: “If we have any hope of a thriving planet — much less a business — it is going to take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have.” The question is, will other businesses follow Patagonia’s example? Alas, it is very unlikely. Chouinard is not a typical billionaire, and Patagonia is not a typical company.
For Yvon Chouinard, it all began with his love for mountains. He started rock climbing in California’s Yosemite Valley at the age of 14. Dissatisfied with the quality of climbing equipment, he learnt to make his own gear for friends and family. In 1957, Chouinard opened a small shop of handmade climbing gear in his parents’ backyard. Later, it grew into his first big business, Chouinard Equipment.
In 1973, Chouinard founded Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company with a green mission. For decades, Patagonia has been using mostly recycled materials and giving 1 percent of its sales to the environmental cause. The latest decision of giving the company away is the next great step for its visionary owner. As Chouinard says, “It’s been nearly 50 years since we began our experiment in responsible business, and we are just getting started.”