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Patagonia Launches 'Responsible Economy' Campaign

Image credit: Patagonia

Leaders from outdoor apparel company Patagonia have announced a new campaign, The Responsible Economy, which calls on consumers and businesses alike to rethink disposability for more effective resource allocation.

In a recent essay, also titled “The Responsible Economy,” Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, explained: “Can we even imagine what an economy would look like that wouldn’t destroy the home planet? A responsible economy? During the next two years, Patagonia will try to face and explore that question. We’ll use real-world examples, not a lot of pie-in-the-sky theories. Most of all, we’re going to feel our way into how this question affects how we do business. It is the most ambitious and important endeavor we have ever undertaken.”

“Our other environmental campaigns have addressed travesties such as the depletion of the oceans, pollution of water, and obstacles to migration paths for animals,” Chouinard said. “But these are all symptoms of a far bigger problem; the Responsible Economy Campaign addresses the core. Can Patagonia survive in a responsible economy? Stay tuned.”

With the launch of the campaign, the company also outlined its numerous environmental and social “firsts” since being founded 40 years ago.

“Patagonia’s mission is to ‘inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis,’” said Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s VP of Environmental Affairs. “There are two vital concepts in that statement: We implement our own solutions and we inspire others to follow our lead.”

Patagonia has become a leader by implementing environmental and social firsts including: 

  •     using only organic cotton in its cotton products since 1996;
  •     redefining corporate transparency through its Footprint Chronicles® website – documenting what is working in the supply chain, what’s not, and steps the company is doing to address its challenges;
  •     launching its Common Threads Partnership, which invites customers to take mutual responsibility for the entire life cycle of the company’s products through the 5 R’s: reduce, repair, reuse, recycle and reimagine;
  •     becoming the first brand member of the bluesign® system;
  •     being one of the first California companies to switch to wind energy upon deregulation and adding on-site solar energy systems;
  •     being the first company in California to incorporate as a benefit corporation    
  • launching $20 Million & Change, a fund to help like-minded responsible start-up companies; and
  •     becoming one of the first U.S. outdoor apparel companies to introduce Fair Trade Certified™ garments (for fall 2014).

In addition, over the years Patagonia has co-founded 1% for the Planet®, Freedom to Roam, The Conservation Alliance and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and is a founding member of the Fair Labor Association. It has given more than $55 million in grants and in-kind donations to date to more than 1000 environmental organizations through its grants program.

Patagonia was one of the first to use hemp, recycled nylon, recycled polyester, and Tencel® (lyocell). Its most recent initiative is working with The Nature Conservancy and Ovis XXI, representing fifth-generation ranchers, to regenerate overgrazed grasslands in Patagonia, Argentina, where it sources its merino wool. The company also takes responsibility for every garment at the end of its life by taking it back for recycling or repurposing.

“On a daily basis, we actively pursue our mission statement’s provision to ‘cause no unnecessary harm,’” stated Jill Dumain, Patagonia’s Director of Environmental Strategy. “At every step we ask ourselves, ‘How does this fiber or input affect the environment we live in and the people making the products and how can we reduce that impact?’”

The new environmental campaign, The Responsible Economy, challenges the assumption that an economy based on growth and increased consumption is tantamount to prosperity.

The company notes that every year, humans use the earth’s resources at a rate nearly one and a half times faster than nature can replace essential “services” such as clean water, clean air, arable land, healthy fisheries, and the stable climate all businesses and societies depend on.

To confront the “elephant in the room” — growth-dependent capitalism — Patagonia will promote the concept that everyone must learn to consume less and use resources far more productively – as well as innovate as quickly and ingeniously as possible to reduce adverse human impact on the natural systems that support all life.

Patagonia will be the first major company to raise this topic with its customers, business leaders and a general audience. The campaign was inspired by the enormous response to its provocative “Don’t Buy This Jacket” full-page ad in the New York Times on Black Friday 2011, when it asked customers to think twice whether they needed a new jacket, and by its recent “Better Than New” ad in the same paper celebrating the re-sale of well-used, long-surviving Patagonia clothing.

Patagonia joined nearly two-dozen major U.S. companies in expressing support last month for new carbon pollution standards proposed by the EPA for new power plants. The companies, along with nearly 50 investors with more than $900 billion in collective assets urging President Obama to finalize the rule soon and proceed with plans to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.

SB Issues in Focus For more examples of how brands are using #Communications to share their values with consumers, check out our Issue in Focus: Communicating Sustainability.

Jennifer Elks is Managing Editor of Sustainable Brands. She is a writer, editor and foodie who is passionate about improving food systems, closing loops and creating more livable cities. She loves cooking, wine, cooking with wine, correcting spelling errors in… [Read more about Jennifer Elks]


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