Patagonia has made the planet its ‘sole contributor’ – what can other brands learn?


Earlier this week, Yvonne Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, Actively quit the company, giving up his and his family’s status as billionaires. In a welcome and unique trend of capitalism, the longtime advocate of sustainability has decided to dedicate all of Patagonia’s profits to fighting the climate crisis, rather than piling up his pockets.

“Hopefully this will affect a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich and a group of the poor,” Yvonne told the New York Times.

This may be seen as a bit of an extreme mockery of capitalism – and thus advertising – but it may also have the potential to propel major brands forward to do real good work that changes the world. It is, in a way, the clearest possible example of “marketing with a purpose”.

Intrigued by the thoughts of some of Adland’s most outspoken thinkers on sustainability, LBB’s Addison Capper has hired folks from Wunderman Thompson, McCann Worldgroup, DDB, Purpose Disruptors, Publicis, and more.

Jacqueline Kaminsky
Vice President, Global Director of Sustainability, McCann Worldgroup

This is really a clear call to the brand community. While Patagonia is rooted in sustainability, the truth is that every brand has a role to play in efforts to make our planet and ourselves healthier. In fact, our research shows that 77% of people globally believe that brands have a greater potential to create positive change than government…making sustainability not only a moral imperative but also a business. Increasingly, people are looking to go to, interact with and buy from companies that have integrated their business objectives with the common good. In essence, Mother Earth is the new primary contributor.

The key here is knowing that there is no one-size-fits-all way to do this – each brand must find its own role to play in sustainability that is authentic to it. And most importantly, whatever their approach, it has to be sustainable. Those brands that are committed to fighting back and making real public impact will shape the bonds that connect both people and the planet.

Lisa Merrick Lawless
Co-founder, Purpose Disruptors

This is what imagination and leadership look like in a climate and environmental emergency. In order to bring about the change needed to halve emissions by 2030, we need to reimagine everything. This is every brand, every campaign, every agency – the entire industry model. Patagonia’s joy is that she was never afraid to do what they knew was right, and was bold enough to pave the way for others. As Yvon Chouinard himself says, “There were no good options available so we created our own.” By doing so, they realize that they are “influencing customers and other businesses and possibly changing the system along the way.” This is what we need now. We need a new system. The Patagonia move provides an indication of the direction of travel and gives an idea of ​​the contribution that brands and agencies can make.

Oro Trini Castelli
Chief Strategy Officer, DDB New York

A great article from the New York Times describes Yvonne Chouinard as a “reluctant billionaire,” framing his decision as abandoning the company he created.

I see things a little differently. Although Chouinard declared that he started in Patagonia as a craftsman, rather than as a businessman, he gradually embraced business and fortune while giving a different role, scope, and destination.

Today, the company’s goal is set as “We are in the business of saving our home planet”. Patagonia sees the climate crisis as its own business and a systemic threat, so every part of the way the company does business must be reconsidered, reorganized, and reinvented.

Patagonia defines this approach as an “extraordinary business”. In defining the future of Patagonia, Yvonne Chouinard added additional meaning to the company’s approach.

Because making a fortune out of difference often required actual wealth, he declared his intent to use those created by Patagonia to protect the planet – the ultimate source of all wealth.

Yvonne Chouinard’s decision is in line with the transformational shift from “shareholder capitalism” to “shareholder capitalism,” which many companies are beginning to embrace.

It also emphasizes the importance of moving from purpose to impact, from intent to action – all while marrying brand equity, brand consistency, and brand integrity.

Most entrepreneurs want their companies to become market leaders.

Some want their brands to be a leader in the culture. With his decision, Yvon Chouinard achieved an even greater ambition. He transcended his class, considered the whole community, and ended up leaving a legacy.

Alison Dodd
Senior Director, Global Sustainability, Wunderman Thompson

For over 50 years, Patagonia has proven that it is possible to have a sustainable and thriving business. At the end of the day, Patagonia is still a company — they make, advertise (or anti-ad) and sell — a lot. And they do this while taking care of workers, customers and the environment. Patagonia is aware of its influential role in combating the climate crisis and has acted accordingly. Although not everyone has a $3 billion company to donate, Yvon Chouinard’s move shows that we all have an important role to play. And as advertisers, marketers and growth partners, we have the power to elevate real business and the people and stories that inspire business. This is our role in the climate crisis – let us courageously follow the example of Patagonia and make our mark without leaving a mark.

Yale Cohen
EVP, Global Digital Standards, Publicis Media Exchange

I don’t expect many large advertisers to follow in Patagonia’s footsteps simply because of ownership structures that no longer exist with individuals often. However, I like them to set an example that companies should live up to their mission. For Patagonia, this has always been about people enjoying the world we live in.

I always remember at ESG that as an employee, consumer, and advertising executive, there are higher expectations for brands to contribute to making the world better; Brands with a purpose-oriented mission will be viewed differently by their employees, consumers and in the long run that prove to be good for business!

Andrea (Ring) Grodberg
Chief Strategy Officer, VMLY & R.

Well, I will admit it. I tried to work in Patagonia more than once.

The email did not arrive again. But that’s fine.

Not only did Patagonia get the land in need of help, but it has provided on-site daycare for parents and their young children and allows its people to surf and ski.

I wear only Patagonia, and so does my husband, my child, my mother, my sisters, my brothers—and also my dog, if that’s a thing.

So, is Patagonia’s latest anti-capitalist move? of course not. Yvonne Chouinard used capitalism to make Patagonia what it is now. His legacy is to do more. And to be honest, in 10 years, I hope to be working myself for a pure nonprofit. This is what all my colleagues dream about. Go ahead, ask anyone. When they save enough money to pay for their children’s college, they turn to a nonprofit.

But in the meantime, I will continue to be part of a growing group of leaders who know that capitalism will get us out of the mess we are in.

It is possible that we are entering a new phase that I call “creative capitalism”. This is when we really bring social and environmental context into our decisions and use creativity to make these contexts exclusive.

Well let’s go. Hat off for iPhone. We’ve handed the baton to us and all the other brands that need to step up. we are ready.

Winston Bench
Chief Branding and Experience Officer, GALE

Patagonia has never been shy about its mission of working to save the planet. This seems like the next logical step in its evolution, but at the same time it came as a surprise in the best of ways. I suspect that will increase sales and increase customer loyalty. Other brands, such as Chipotle and Cotopaxi, have recognized the intrinsic value of making sustainability part of their business model. However, we need more business and brand leaders going forward. Patagonia has been a model of the method for years, and we hope this great work will inspire others to follow in their footsteps. Saving the planet really depends on it.

Lucy Asher
UK Sustainability Pioneer, OLIVER Agency

Far from “letting go” of the company, he has acted in accordance with the company’s goals and values.

Do you think he will establish a company dedicated to the values ​​of the planets and people, and then return to individual profit when it is time to sell? Who can blame you? We are surrounded by companies, brands and billionaires who use values ​​and purpose only as long as they do not stand in the way of shareholder profits.

This is a groundbreaking example of a brand that truly lives its purpose, which Chouinard can do with confidence because Patagonia’s goal is incredibly clear. Created jointly with employees, revised and modified, and thought of nature-based meetings to get employees to communicate about what’s really important to them. This is the culmination of decades of focus on the goal and how to act upon it. So, while a dramatic transition to us, it’s a logical and real move from Patagonia.

With more examples like this, a growth at all costs and profit-only business approach will start to look a bit old fashioned. So if you are a business leader and feel inspired but not sure how to act, go and look at your purpose and values. what are they? Go for a big nature walk and chat with a friend. Are they real? What would it look like to act on it, really? Then act. Leadership really only emerges when it’s time to act.

You don’t need to be a billionaire to make an important change. You need to delve deeper into your business goal, and then devote the time and resources to work on that purpose. This is something we can all focus on and benefit from.

Dan Ng
Chief Strategy Officer, Gray NY

It’s more than just a Patagonian company in a generous moment. It is a brand that transcends shareholder value to build authentic cultural value. Brands have the opportunity to grow from the level of personal experience to telling the stories that move everyone into action. In this case, it’s a story that inspires people to do their part for the planet – by example.

Eric Levine
President and Chief Content Officer, Publicis Groupe US

If brands have a purpose or want to demonstrate purposeful intent when they communicate with consumers, they need to align marketing with original values ​​and processes. If they can dedicate themselves to a purpose and show consumers they are willing to take risks and support them – and then repeat it over and over – they will attract a new audience by doing the right things and that audience will reward them by buying and interacting with them as a brand or product. As our industry continues to move into new and immersive web3 environments, this authenticity and value exchange will become even more important.


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