Patagonia’s Environmental Responsibility
In 2013 when North Face announced it’s annual revenue of $2 billion (compared to Patagonia’s at $570 million), Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said his company is not interested in increasing profits at all. In fact, Patagonia’s goal was to make less in order to better serve the environment. The new campaign, “The Responsible Economy” involves looking for ways to make products less disposable, and challenge consumers to be more responsible with their purchases: when they do buy, choose classic, high quality, environmentally responsible clothing.
Early on, before the word “carbon footprint” was invented, Patagonia sought to reduce their impact on the environment. Since the mid-eighties, Patagonia catalogs have been printed on recycled-content paper. The company worked to develop recycled polyester for use in their popular Synchilla fleece. In 1996, the Patagonia distribution center in Reno, achieved a 60% reduction in energy use through solar-tracking skylights and radiant heating. Recycled content was used for everything from rebar to carpet to the partitions between toilets. They retro-fitted existing stores with energy efficient lighting and recycled materials, and built environmentally friendly new stores. Since the early nineties, Patagonia made environmental responsibility a key element of everyone's job.
Inspired by the success of grass root efforts to restore natural habitats and projects that seek to preserve ecosystems, in 1986 Patagonia began to donate 1% of sales, or 10% of profits (whichever was greater) to environmental causes. That’s a commitment that Patagonia continues to this day.
Why Organic Cotton?
Patagonia commissioned an independent research company to do an environmental impact assessment of polyester, nylon and cotton. The "natural" cotton fiber proved to be by far the greatest environmental villian of the fibers studied. They found that 25% of all toxic pesticides used in agriculture was (and is) used in the cultivation of cotton, that the resulting pollution of soil and water was (and is) horrific, and that evidence of damage to the health of fieldworkers is strong, though difficult to prove.
In the fall of 1994, Patagonia made the decision to take their cotton sportswear 100% organic (no pesticide use) and it has remained organic to this day.
More than forty years after the Patagonia label first appeared, the company continues to make the best product. Every piece of clothing in the 2016 line of Patagonia Lifestyle clothing incorporates at least 1 element of environmental responsibility: it’s either made of organic fibers, recycled materials, and/or produced in a Fair-Trade Certified workplace.
Now that’s something to feel good about.