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Patagonia Founder Donates Company

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and family have donated their entire outdoorware company, worth ~$3B, to fight climate change.

Chouinard went into the sporting gear business in 1957, when he began to sell mountain climbing gear forged in his own blacksmith shop to fund his rock climbing hobby. In 1973, he and his business partner Tom Frost opened the Great Pacific Iron Works, the first Patagonia store in Ventura, California.

Always an avid outdoorsman, the Patagonia founder has made efforts to use his business for global progress. Under his policies, Patagonia will only sell branded products to firms with pro-environmental and social policies, and they try to reduce garment waste by re-purchasing used merchandise to be refurbished and sold again.

Since 1985, Patagonia has committed 1% of their total sales to donate to environmental groups but that’s plainly no longer enough.

“While we’re doing our best to address the environmental crisis, it’s not enough. We needed to find a way to put more money into fighting the crisis while keeping the company’s values intact. 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,” write the Patagonia founder in a letter on the company website Wednesday.

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.”

The option Chouinard created was to give all of the voting and non-voting stock of the company to a trust, which will reinvest only what’s needed for the company to thrive and donate the rest to causes which align with their values on climate, social consciousness, and conservation.

Photo: melissamn / Shutterstock