Many companies, especially today, strive for more sustainable business practices. Some have even adopted conservancy and environmentalism into its brand ethos, or made them core tenets of their business. But you’d be hard pressed to find an apparel brand that has dedicated its entire mission, from its inception, to these issues like
Patagonia’s mission is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” The outdoor and apparel company is the standard bearer for philanthropy and sustainability in the apparel industry. They are part educators and part activists. An entire section of its website dedicated to connecting its consumers with nearby causes and projects they might want to get involved in called Patagonia Action Works.
For almost 40 years, Patagonia has connected volunteers with grassroots activists. Just type in your city and you can find nearby environmental grantees you can support, events you can attend, volunteering opportunities, petitions you can sign and more. It’s a perfect resource for people who want to get involved but don’t know how or where to. Patagonia does the legwork for you. Since 1985, Patagonia has
given over $89 million to its grantees.
“Fair Trade Certified” apparel. You may be familiar with the term but not with the process behind it; for every Fair Trade Certified item sewn, Patagonia pays a premium. The money goes into an account the workers in its factories control. A democratically elected Fair Trade worker committee decides how the funds will be used, whether designated for social, economic or environmental community projects, or as a cash bonus that goes directly to the workers. They have paid out over $430,000 to more than $7,000 workers. In Fall 2017, the Fair Trade Certified program expanded to more than 300 styles, including the Synchilla Snap-T fleece (a very popular item) and to new factories in India, Thailand, Colombia, Vietnam, Nicaragua and Mexico.
Another core prong of Patagonia’s mission is its emphasis on recycled clothing. While growing sales are any apparel company’s goal, Patagonia has gone out of its way to encourage customers to buy recycled Patagonia through its
Worn Wear site, in the hopes of eliminating waste and keeping a product’s life cycle going. On the site, customers can ask questions about repairing their own Patagonia products, like how to patch up holes, fix zippers or remove pine sap.
Back in 2011, on Black Friday, Patagonia took out a full-page ad in
The New York Times, headlined “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” The ad focused on Patagonia’s vow to repair and recycle old pieces while imploring customers to stop buying things they don’t need. In the process, Patagonia sold a lot of jackets. “It’s kind of like Zen,” said Chouinard. “You do the right thing and good things happen.”
Although Patagonia has been rooted in activism and has remained a staple in outerwear for decades, it seems that as of late, as they've become more and more vocal in their contempt for the current President and his administration, the company has seen a noticeable spike in sales. In 2016, Patagonia advertised that it was donating all of its proceeds from Black Friday ($2.5 million in sales the previous year). They ended up quadrupling their sales and grossing $10 million dollars on Black Friday 2016, with 60 percent of those sales coming from new customers. “It was one of the best business things we’ve ever done,” said founder Yvon Chouinard to
In December of last year, Patagonia published a simple, pointed post on its website with
“The President Stole Your Land” plastered over a black page. The post was in response to President Trump’s decision to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by nearly two million acres despite millions of Americans speaking up in favor of protecting our national monuments. It was the largest reduction of protected land in American history.
Some companies might deem it risky to place a stark, black image with such precise wording on its online shop blog, but it was in stride with Patagonia’s established company mission. Not only did it raise awareness to the damage caused by this piece of legislation, but it didn’t slow down sales one bit.
According to , Patagonia’s sales increased by up to six times more than a typical day after that piece was posted. Overall, Patagonia did $800 million in sales last year and remains a private company, maintaining all of its original messaging over the years. Slice Intelligence
Whether it be sneaker companies, streetwear brands, denim giants or outdoor aficionados, brands are getting involved. No matter the size or scope of the business, consumers subconsciously gravitate towards brands that share their own ideals. And with every brand being available at our fingertips for consumption, often the tiebreaker is that personal connection to the brand’s mission.
Most millennial or Gen Z consumers do care about the different issues affecting our planet, and aren’t afraid to put their money behind the companies that raise awareness for those particular issues, whether it’s a company that’s been around for decades like Patagonia or something relatively new like Noah. No matter your reach as a business, it often just pays to care.