Pointing at True North
"Form follows function" – this first rule of design could easily be outerwear company Patagonia's slogan.
Known for its durable, go-anywhere clothing that can stand up to the harshest elements from the Arctic to Antarctica, Patagonia makes its clothing to last a lifetime and enable the wearer to function comfortably in any situation from climbing a mountain to trekking in the desert or surfing a killer wave.
Founded in 1973 by mountaineer Yvon Chouinard, Ventura, CA-based Patagonia field tests everything it makes to ensure that it’s fit for the purpose and can withstand whatever conditions it’s likely to encounter.
Chouinard, an outdoorsman who became an entrepreneur, chronicles his life journey in his book, Let My People Go Surfing – The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. Charting a less-traveled path, he succeeded in building a global business while focusing on the environment and creating a company where people want to work.
Regardless of changes in the economy or fashion tastes, Patagonia stays true to its values of creating high performance products that do minimal damage to the environment and are made with passion and soul.
Demonstrating its commitment to the environment, Patagonia has even gone so far as to tell people not to buy its products.
The reason for this is that it wants to discourage overspending and conspicuous consumption. The feeling is: "If you don't need it, don't buy it." An unexpected point of view from a company, but one that is representative of what Patagonia stands for.
Along with this, Patagonia gives 1% of its total sales revenues to support environmental causes. Through its 1% For the Planet program, started in 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of its sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment – some $70 million dollars in donations. Plus it has also formed an alliance with other businesses to encourage them to make similar pledges.
Patagonia's concern for the environment extends to how its most basic products are made, such as denim for blue jeans. To minimize pollution it uses eco-friendly dyes and 100% organic cotton grown without pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers. It also verifies that fabrics are stitched with Fair Trade-certified sewing methods.
Patagonia shows concern for its employees, too. Workers at its Ventura headquarters are allowed to set their own hours and given breaks during the day to go surfing when the waves are good.
On-site daycare is provided and healthy food and snacks are available at the company's cafe. Employees can take a yoga class or grab a scooter or skateboard to take out for a spin.
Along with this, Chouinard has organized rock climbing trips to Yosemite, fly-fishing trips to Wyoming and other outdoor adventures.
With an internal compass pointed at True North, Patagonia is "committed to the core" – its core values, core products and core customers.
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