Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is giving the company away
"Earth is now our only shareholder," is how Yvon Chouinard, founder of the Patagonia brand, just announced the donation of a company, valued according to the New York Times at $3 billion.
In a letter published on the Patagonia website, the former company director says "one option was to sell Patagonia and donate all the money. But we couldn’t be sure a new owner would maintain our values or keep our team of people around the world employed. Another path was to take the company public. What a disaster that would have been. Even public companies with good intentions are under too much pressure to create short-term gain at the expense of long-term vitality and responsibility. Truth be told, there were no good options available. So, we created our own.”
Practically, the businessman, in agreement with his wife and two children, decided to transfer 100% of their shares in the company to a trust, the Patagonia Purpose Trust, in charge of ensuring that its values are respected, and to the association Holdfast Collective specialized in the fight against the environmental crisis and the protection of nature, to which the profits will be donated.
Yvon Chouinard, born in Lewiston, Maine, U.S., from an American-Canadian family, grew up in Southern California and began his career in rock climbing. His invention of reusable steel pitons and carabiners allowed him to earn a living selling the equipment he made, before partnering with Tom Frost, a climber and aeronautical engineer.
After opening his first store in Ventura, California, his company, Chouinard Equipment, quickly became the leading supplier of climbing gear in the United States before expanding its product line to include outdoor clothing and accessories and changing its name to Patagonia in 1973.
Committed to environmental protection since the beginning, Yvon Chouinard replaced the climbing piton, which disfigured the rock, with aluminum belaying devices that were more respectful of nature. Climbers appreciated and requested the brand.
Patagonia, which since the mid-1980s, annually donates 1% of its sales to environmental associations, has been striving for some years to use recycled or natural textile fibers for its outdoor clothing lines. It had also announced in 2019 to have as an official mission to "save the planet" and had thus paid the same year $10 million to environmental organizations, in reaction to the tax cut granted by the Trump administration to American companies.
Some controversies have, however, peppered the history of Patagonia. The brand admitted in 2012 to using down from force-fed geese, before setting up a system of traceability of the down, guaranteed without animal abuse and in 2015, was also singled out by PETA for its wool supplier's cruelty to animals. This latest donation made by Yvon Chouinard will enter, for sure, in the history of sustainable fashion and philanthropy.
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