Environmental Philosophy of Patagonia

Patagonia's Environmental philosophy

Briefly summarize the philosophy for your classmates in your post.
• Outline how this philosophy supports the values articulated by the author in the History section of the book.
• What challenges do you expect that Patagonia is having, and/or will be having in the future, in maintaining this philosophy?
• What would you suggest that the leaders of Patagonia do to stay on course and sustain alignment to their values?

Here the historical value of the Patagonia.
"The most important right we have is the right to be responsible." - Gerald Amos
We are in the earliest stages of learning how what we do for a living both threatens nature and fails to meet our deepest human needs. The impoverishment of our world and the devaluing of the priceless undermine our physical and economic well-being.

Yet the depth and breadth of technological innovation of the past few decades shows that we have not lost our most useful gifts; humans are ingenious, adaptive, clever. We also have moral capacity, compassion for life, and an appetite for justice. We now need to more fully engage these gifts to make economic life more socially just and environmentally responsible, and less destructive to nature and the commons that sustain us.

We can't pose Patagonia as the model of a responsible company. We don't do everything a responsible company can do, nor does anyone else we know. But we can tell you how we came to realize our environmental and social responsibilities, and then began to act on them. Like other things in human life, it began with one step that led to another.

In the spring of 1988, Patagonia opened a store in Boston on Newbury Street. Within days, the people who worked in the store were sick: mainly headaches. We hired an engineer who told us the problem was the ventilation system: it was recycling the same tired air. But what was in the air? Probably formaldehyde, she told us. From the finish on the cotton clothes stored in the basement. Formaldehyde? This led us to commission a study of conventional cotton, and the discovery that cotton grown with pesticides is one of the most destructive crops in the agricultural world. Knowing what we knew, we could not continue to use conventional cotton for our sportswear. We went organic in 1996.

Once you start, you can't stop. "Living the examined life," said our founder, Yvon Chouinard, "is a pain in the ass." From cotton, we moved to what happens in Patagonia's name in every step of the supply chain, from crop to fabric to finished garment. We measured the environmental impacts of selected articles of clothing and published them on The Footprint Chronicles®. We worked with an outside auditor and an in-house corporate responsibility specialist to establish the working conditions and pay for every person who sews a Patagonia garment. We learned how to make fleece jackets from recycled plastic bottles and then how to make fleece jackets from fleece jackets. We examined our use of paper in catalogs, the sources of our electricity, the amount of oil we consumed driving to work. We continued to support employees with medical insurance, maternity and paternity leave, subsidized child-care and paid internships with non profit environmental groups. As we have for many years, we gave one percent of sales to grassroots activists. This one percent commitment isn't typical philanthropy. Rather, it's part of the cost of doing business, part of our effort to balance (however imperfectly) the impact we have on natural systems - and to protect the world on which our business, employees, and customers rely. After many years of giving money to activists, we realized that if we could share profits, we could also supply time and muscle.

Underlying much of what challenges Patagonia is the modern commitment to growth and consumption. We've begun to look seriously at these twin conundrums and took out an ad on Black Friday in 2011 that read, "Don't Buy This Jacket."

In the end, Patagonia may never be completely responsible. We have a long way to go and we don't have a map - but we do have a way to read the terrain and to take the next step, and then the next.

Early Environmental Ethics
Patagonia was still a fairly small company when we started to devote time and money to the increasingly apparent environmental crisis. We all saw what was happening in the remote corners of the world: creeping pollution and deforestation, the slow, then not so slow, disappearance of fish and wildlife. And we saw what was happening closer to home: 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.

What we began to read - about global warming, the cutting and burning of tropical forests, the rapid loss of groundwater and topsoil, acid rain, the ruin of rivers and creeks from silting-over dams - reinforced what we saw with our eyes and smelled with our noses during our travels. At the same time, we slowly became aware that uphill battles fought by small, dedicated groups of people to save patches of habitat could yield significant results.

The first lesson had come right here at home, in the early '70s. A group of us went to a city council meeting to help protect a local surf break. We knew vaguely that the Ventura River had once been a major steelhead salmon habitat. Then, during the forties, two dams were built, and water diverted. Except for winter rains, the only water left at the river mouth flowed from the sewage plant. At that city council meeting, several experts testified that the river was dead and that channeling the mouth would have no effect on remaining bird- and wildlife, or on our surf break.

Things looked grim until Mark Capelli, a 25-year-old biology student, gave a slide show of photos he had taken along the river - of the birds that lived in the willows, of the muskrats and water snakes, of eels that spawned in the estuary. He even showed a slide of a steelhead smolt: yes, fifty or so steelhead still came to spawn in our "dead" river.

The development plan was defeated. We gave Mark office space and a mailbox, and small contributions to help him fight the River's battle. As more development plans cropped up, the Friends of the Ventura River worked to defeat them, to clean up the water and to increase its flow. Wildlife increased and more steelhead began to spawn.

Mark taught us two important lessons: that a grassroots effort could make a difference, and that degraded habitat could, with effort, be restored. His work inspired us. We began to make regular donations, to stick to smaller groups working to save or restore habitat rather than give the money to NGOs with big staffs, overheads, and corporate connections. In 1986, we committed to donate 10% of profits each year to these groups. We later upped the ante to 1% of sales, or 10% of profits, whichever was greater. We have kept to that commitment every year since.

In 1988, we initiated our first national environmental campaign on behalf of an alternative master plan to deurbanize the Yosemite Valley. Each year since, we have undertaken a major education campaign on an environmental issue. We took an early position against globalization of trade where it means compromise of environmental and labor standards. We have argued for dam removal where silting, marginally useful dams compromise fish life. We have supported wildlands projects that seek to preserve ecosystems whole and create corridors for wildlife to roam. We hold, every eighteen months, a "Tools for Activists" conference to teach marketing and publicity skills to some of the groups we work with.

We also, early on, began initial steps to reduce our own role as a corporate polluter: we have been using recycled-content paper for our catalogs since the mid-eighties. We worked with Malden Mills to develop recycled polyester for use in our Synchilla fleece.

Our distribution center in Reno, opened in 1996, achieved a 60% reduction in energy use through solar-tracking skylights and radiant heating; we used recycled content for everything from rebar to carpet to the partitions between urinals. We retrofitted lighting systems in existing stores, and build-outs for new stores became increasingly environmentally friendly. We assessed the dyes we used and eliminated colors from the line that required the use of toxic metals and sulfides. Most importantly, since the early nineties, we have made environmental responsibility a key element of everyone's job.

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