Surekha Ragavan
Sep 16, 2022

Patagonia gives away company: Is this real brand purpose?

The apparel-maker made news this week for giving away its US$3 billion company towards climate-change efforts. We ask comms pros if this should set an example for other corporations.

A Patagonia store in Hong Kong (Getty Images)
A Patagonia store in Hong Kong (Getty Images)

This week, retail brand Patagonia made global headlines after founder Yvon Chouinard announced that he would give away his US$3 billion company to a specially designed trust and non-profit organisation. All of the company’s profits will be used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the world.

Chouinard said in an interview with New York Times: “Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people. We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.”

The news has been received positively on social media, with many in the industry praising Chouinard’s move as a true act of brand purpose. We ask comms pros if this sets a shining example for other large corporations and billionaires.

Janissa Ng, senior account director, Spurwing Communications 

From the climate emergency to food crises, the global challenges that we face today require a response that meets the scale of the problem. Businesses have the reach, influence, and resources to activate solutions that individuals can only aspire to. Many businesses talk about being sustainable, but Patagonia has set the bar for what it means to put your money where your mouth is.

This is a bold move but the positive reactions to the news around the world signals a fundamental shift in what people expect from businesses today: profit with purpose is non-negotiable. Patagonia has paved the way for more businesses to show how they are not just delivering shareholder value but serving the interests of their stakeholders in society. More importantly, to go beyond lip service when communicating impact by demonstrating their commitment in a tangible way through their bottom line.

Vuki Vujasinovic​, CEO, Sling & Stone

Yves and the Patagonia team have nailed this week's news. It's been a masterclass in storytelling that has captivated people all around the world, with Google Trends data showing searches for the brand skyrocketed immediately following the announcement. The main lesson that all brands can take from this is consistency in storytelling. If you look back on Patagonia over the years, this actually makes perfect sense. It's incredibly congruous with their words and actions in the past.

More companies can learn from how they have constantly and consistently told this strategic narrative. As an aside, if you've enjoyed following the Patagonia story, it's worth reading The Billionaire Who Wasn't, which is the incredible story of Chuck Feeney, founder of Duty Free Shoppers, who over several decades gave away more than $8 billion to incredible causes around the world and pioneered 'Giving while Living'.

Julia Hoy, sustainability communications practice lead, Sefiani 

As a company ‘in business to save our home planet’, Patagonia has consistently pioneered sustainable business and disrupted its industry. The decision by Yvon Chouinard to donate his entire company in the name of climate change sets an amazing new precedent, reframing capitalism and challenging how seriously the rest of the world is taking this existential crisis. Earlier this year, billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes invested $461 million to block the demerger of AGL. Both billionaires acted knowing that addressing the climate emergency requires speed, innovation, courage and lots of money.

The Climate Policy Initiative recently estimated that reducing warming to 1.5°C is going to require $4.13 trillion every year by 2030. The average climate investment in recent years averaged just 15% of that figure. There is a lot more that large companies and billionaires can be doing instead of incremental progress hiding behind big targets. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, two in three companies with a potential 'high impact' on climate mitigation haven’t even committed to setting science-based targets yet. I hope companies and billionaires take inspiration from Yvon’s bold move, to make the words they all speak actually mean something.

Linda Lee, director, communications & marketing, Docquity 

This announcement does not come as a surprise. In recent years, Patagonia has led corporate activism on issues that matter to them with speed and thought. Many companies speak of 'doing good and doing well' but Patagonia has the single-minded focus of 'doing good' and the impact is evident in multiple folds—in revenue, brand value, and social capital. It is inspiring and powerful to see how they have proven that what they do works—proving that Earth is now their only shareholder.

While we can say that many large corporations or leaders have the desire to do right, commitment and execution is key. Setting this vision comes from the top and it has to be authentic with a resilient and sustainable business model. Patagonia has shown that it requires a fundamental shift in mindset and priorities, not just incremental changes.  

Ben Peacock, founder, Republic of Everyone 

I think this is wonderful. Patagonia has always pushed the boundaries of what a company can do and what everyday thinking says is possible. This is the ultimate incarnation of that. It’s becoming increasingly clear that human survival on this planet is uncertain, whether you are a billionaire or not. As such I find it incredible that every one of them use their wealth and influence to create change like this. 

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