Patagonia Ad in New York Times, Nov 2011
While every other company spends their biggest marketing dollar of the year to increase sales on Black Friday, this company makes a rather confusing appearance in New York Times that reads ‘don’t buy this jacket.’
Patagonia goes way beyond our imagination in their efforts to leave an inhabitable world for our children. They tell consumers not to buy a new Patagonia that they don’t need. They are confident that Patagonia jackets are exceptionally durable over 10 years. They encourage people to repair Patagonia clothing if it’s torn. They ask consumers to send worn-out Patagonia back for recycling. They raise awareness for preserving the environment. They support environment-friendly activities. They don’t stop innovating their ways of protecting the environment.
Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to
inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
– Patagonia’s Mission Statement
Acknowledging Patagonia is part of the problem
Patagonia, headquartered in California, starts to see the climate change with their eyes: thousand year-old Sequoias succumbing to L.A. smog, the thinning of life in tide pools and kelp beds, the rampant development of the land along the coast. They also come to realize dedicated people make small movements to protect the habitat. In response, they take their first step to acknowledge that they make products using fossil fuels, build factories, consume a huge amount of water and electricity, ship products in boxes and plastic bags, emit carbon dioxide driving cars and flying airplanes.
Patagonia creates a movement
Among different fabric fibers, Patagonia chose cotton to have the least environmental impact as it was made from a plant. Not just any cotton. Organically grown cotton. Their jackets are made out of cotton grown without harmful chemicals for years, which even has higher quality than conventionally grown cotton. To ensure Patagonia cotton is organic as defined by the USDA’s National Organic Program, they require certificates issued by a third party. Patagonia starts a movement to protect farmers who produces cotton organically and role model for different companies in the supply chain.
Patagonia also makes an effort to use 100% recycled down and feathers from cushions, bedding, and even some of their own reclaimed products which offer identical performance benefits to virgin down. The company tries their best to ensure down-bearing birds are not mistreated by only using 100% Traceable Down that can be traced back to birds that were never force-fed or live-plucked. To provide other companies with a similar path forward, Patagonia has convinced NSF International to participate in establishing Traceable Down Standards.
Patagonia takes a cautious, environment-friendly approach in managing their buildings from factories, warehouses to retail stores. When opening up new store locations, they mostly use existing buildings instead of constructing new ones. Solar panels are implemented in their facilities, air-conditioners are not installed, and LED lights are installed. Sinks and toilets are built to preserve water, and used water is filtered before going into drains.
Patagonia takes a stand to raise social awareness
Patagonia promotes its corporate social responsibility through many different channels to raise awareness to the broader audience. On top of publishing its efforts to preserve the habitat, Patagonia runs campaigns both internally and externally. Patagonia employees volunteer to take part in many different environmental initiatives and run impact programs to invite people from outside to participate in baby steps to support the environment.
Yet, Patagonia has a long journey ahead
While Patagonia has gone out of their way to not cause any unnecessary harm in the materials that they use, the production of their shell jackets largely contribute to global warming. The nylon and polyester polymers that are used to craft the clothing is neither infinite nor sustainable and the durable water repellent finish applied is potentially toxic to the environment. Patagonia is still left with the task to continuously search for alternative materials and technology.
It’s mind-blowing to see Patagonia making all the effort to improve every single aspect of their production, sales, and distribution to preserve the environment. At the same time, it’s surprising to see that much hasn’t changed about global warming overall and there is endless room for improvement. Patagonia has a huge presence to raise awareness of the consumers, but not so much of other companies in the industry. Perhaps their next step should be to have the consumers influence other apparel companies to join the movement.
 Patagonia www.patagonia.com
 Patagonia Environmental & Social Initiatives http://www.patagonia.com/on/demandware.static/Sites-patagonia-us-Site/Library-Sites-PatagoniaShared/en_US/PDF-US/patagonia-enviro-initiatives-2015.pdf
 Outside: Patagonia’s New Study Finds Fleece Jackets Are a Serious Pollutant http://www.outsideonline.com/2091876/patagonias-new-study-finds-fleece-jackets-are-giant-pollutant
 Climate Change in 2016: Implications for Business, (Henderson, Reinert, Dekhtyar, Mgidal) Harvard Business School, 2016
 Huffington Post: Why Fashion Should be on the Climate Change Agenda http://www.huffingtonpost.com/livia-giuggioli/why-fashion-should-be-on-_b_5857162.html