Patagonia: The Old, New Way to do Business
Patagonia, like any other business, began with selling a product to make money. However, within a short time the leaders of Patagonia began to notice a few things that didn’t add up as justifiable means for their end goal of making a profit – “Everything manufactured comes with a cost that exceeds its price.”
In the book, The Responsible Company, written by the founders of Patagonia, it says, “As mice and men share 99% of their genes, so to Walmart, BP, and Patagonia.” Translate: Patagonia, although environmentally conscious, shares a lot of its business practices with other global companies. So, what makes Patagonia different?
Patagonia became aware of the issues that their industry placed on communities in developing nations from where their products are sourced all the way to retail. When this information came to light it caused Patagonia to rethink what it means to do business. It started with being a part of the community. They began to change how their business impacted the areas where their materials were sourced and sewn. Industrial, chemically dependent cotton was changed to organically grown cotton. Textile mills were evaluated for working conditions and environmental impacts upon receiving Patagonia’s approval. Overall, Patagonia became more transparent because they made everything public. “We learned that we could inspire our customers to do less harm simply by making them aware of the problem and offering a solution.”
So, what does this mean for your business? At its foundation, your business shares 99% of its genes with Patagonia and Walmart, you too can begin to implement better practices. It begins with knowing your impacts, favor improvements, and sharing what you learn in the process just as Patagonia has done. As the authors say, “Any company can accomplish the same through conventional, but consistently transparent, corporate and social responsibility reporting. Whatever form it takes, transparency will benefit your company.”