Nothing should be made that can't be fixed

Monday 3 June 2013, by patagonia

2 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

Patagonia’s most important business –started in 1973 in California- is the design and the distribution of high quality mountaineering apparel, especially for rock and alpine climbing. Throughout the years, the business has expanded, including in its product portfolio other’s sports such as yoga, ski, snowboarding, fly fishing, surfing and trial running clothing.

Patagonia’s special characteristics lie in their commitment with their employees and the environment. The company gets sure that all their products are produced under safe, fair, legal and humane working conditions throughout all the supply chain. That’s why they ask for their partners in the business to ensure these conditions, too. Every person around the world that sews a Patagonia product has to be given the same good labor conditions. Also, they have a flexible time policy, so their employers are able to have time to practice sports like surfing, snowboarding and so.

In the environmental side, they have learned how to make their production processes more environmental friendly. They have developed technologies that make it possible to recycle water bottles to convert them into jackets or how to save as much paper as possible in their catalogs, as some example. And even they publically admit they are not responsible enough, they give one percent of their sales to grassroots activists and non-lucrative organizations defenders of the environment. Also, they strongly believe in comunitary commitment, so they have created some organization in order to make business fairer. Some of them are European Outdoor Conservation Association or the Fair Labor Association.

As they say in their webpage, this is not philanthropy, but a desire to compensate the environment for the still big damage they are causing.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

The mission of Patagonia when it was created was “build the best product, do the least harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”. So over the years, Patagonia has collaborated with other companies to develop and create initiatives with the goal of reducing the environmental footprint business leave behind.

- 1% for the planet: this association is an alliance of business that donates 1% of their sales to environmental organizations to support sustainability and the preservation of the environment. Patagonia has contributed with more than $46 million dollars in donations.
- Common threads initiative: is a partnership with Patagonia and their customers to buy and use clothes more sustainably. This initiative embraces the concept of Repair, Reuse, Reduces, Recycle, Reimagine. They encourage customers not to buy too much, even Patagonia product that they do not really need, so the firm creates good quality products to prolong the lifecycle of their clothes. They encourage also customers to repair their textiles or if they no longer want the product to donate them to a charity. For these textiles that could not be donate or repaired Patagonia offers to recycle them. Since 2005 Patagonia has recycled more thant34 tons of textile in new clothes.
- Conservation alliance: Patagonia collaborates in an association that encourages business to contribute with environmental organizations.
- Bluesign Standard: Patagonia’s intention is to reduce also the resource consumption of their activities. They collaborate with bluesign technologies to reduce their environmental impact

Patagonia is also involved in the creation of a natural Parks in South America (Argentina and Chile) with a project called Conservación Patagonia

Furthermore, Patagonia also promotes fair labor practices and ensures good working conditions trough the supply chain in their factories following always strictly examinations as members of the Fair Labor Association.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

What we like of Patagonia is this coktail of developing a business (and of course, make profits) with a really strong ethic thought beyond this business.

The main reason why we can trust in Patagonia project is really ethical is because first came the idea to develop high quality clothes for this kind of mountain sports, and the cames the success (translated in the expansion of Patagonia around the world, an increase in sales every year and higher profits every year). Unlike many business, the idea of the creator of the firm is to make money and then he thinks what he can create to make money, and Patagonia was’nt created following this road. Moreover, the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, since the beggining of the firm has been involved in changing this business according to the social corporate responsability and always respecting the enviroment. In addition, the succes of the firm has not changed the ethic code of the firm, the succes has been the main thing to keep working stronger with the ethic code and thanks to the success, to have more resources and money to dedicate to this activities.
Some ethic’s about Patagonia: use of organic cotton, decent treatment of the workers in their factories, they wont work with factories that have children under 15, over the past 20 years we have given nearly $40 million in cash and in-kind donations to environmental causes.

What is really interesting to see is how a business with an strong ethic code since the beggining has continued having this code and doesn’t lose it. So, apart of the high quality clothes, one of the reasons why Patagonia has been succesful for sure is the ethic code and this strong and powerful relationship with theconservation of the enviroment. It makes the people who buy Patagonia produts to feel better buying their clothes because they all are people very related with enviroment and sports mountains who loved nature, and they prefer to buy Patagonia products before to buy another mountain clothes of for example, Nike.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

Patagonia had set a very important objective for the future, which is setting up an important campaign for responsible capitalism, to prevent environmental collapse. The firm had launched this year a two-year campaign which will challenge the very foundations of our capitalist system. This decision came from “don’t buy this jacket” advertisement campaign, where the firm wanted to make aware the costumers about the overconsumption in US Black Friday and sales periods. This responsible two-year campaign aims for finding new measures of success that do not depend only on selling huge quantities of it’s product, and how a responsible economy would look like. A positive factor of the campaign is to aware public opinion about the fact that there is possible to find another definition of success that it’s not related with profit maximization and it’s not based on the consistent expansion of the whole economy.

The company had done a substantial work to engage consumers in a continuing dialogue. The global costumers perception value will have to change, they had to be aware of the contents of the clothes that they’re going to buy (what components are used on the fabrics and also how the buttons, zippers or garments are made of). That’s the reason why the firm had a mid-term objective of informing the consumers about it’s production processes, using social media and new technologies, for example, promoting it’s activities towards firm’s website.

Altough the company had made an important effort for being sustainable than most other clothing firms, it states that it still has a long way to go, for instance, the firm admits that still uses some materials that are environmentally destructive in zipping and dyeing processes. One reason that could explain this issue is the fact that the company has high quality standards that are really difficult to reach with alternative products. At least, the firm had recognized that there are some ethical issues to improve, and this would be the first step to be a completely ethical firm.


Location: Ventura, California (USA)

Sector: Wholesale and retail trade

Official website:

Key figures:

Annual Sales (2012): $ 500 Millions

Number of employees: 1300 people

Annual Revenues (2011): $ 400 Millions

Number of Stores: 53

Nbr. visits: 4574

Nbr. inspires: 2