By Peter Williams, consultant in environmental studies. Eurasia Business News, September 15, 2022

The American rock climber, environmentalist, philanthropist and businessman Yvon Chouinard could have sold the Patagonia brand, valued at three billion dollars, or made it go public. His own fortune is now estimated at $1.2 billion by Forbes.

Instead of this, in agreement with his wife and two children, the American businessman will transfer 100% of their shares in the company to a trust responsible for ensuring that his values are protected, and to an association fighting against the environmental crisis and the protection of nature, to which the profits will be returned.

« The Earth is now our only shareholder ” Yvon Chouinard wrote in a letter posted on patagonia’s website. “I never wanted to be a businessman. I started as a craftsman, making climbing equipment for my friends and myself, before moving on to clothes,” he recalls.

Founded nearly fifty years ago, Patagonia quickly became committed to protecting nature, choosing its raw materials scrupulously or donating 1% of its sales each year to environmental NGOs. But it wasn’t enough, its founder said. “One option was to sell Patagonia and give away all the money. But we couldn’t be sure that a new owner would maintain our values or keep all of our employees,” he said in his letter.

Bringing Patagonia public would have been “a disaster,” he predicts, “Even companies listed with good intentions are under too much pressure to create short-term gains at the expense of long-term vitality and responsibility. »

“I didn’t know what to do with the company because I never wanted to be a businessman. Now I can die with the realization that the company will continue to do the right thing for another 50 years, and I don’t have to be around to do that.”

Yvonne Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

Patagonia will remain a company that cares about its financial health and will operate with a board of directors and a chief executive officer. Yvon Chouinard’s family will continue, for its part, to “guide” the work of the trust and the association.

Yvon Chouinard founded the clothing brand Patagonia in 1973. The company was distinguished by its principles in doing business. For example, only ethical materials are used in production, the company has its own kindergarten and there is no clear working regime. Every year, the manufacturer transferred part of the profits to funds to combat environmental problems. Yvon Chouinard would not have a computer and a mobile phone, he would drive an old Subaru and would live in a modest house with his wife.

Patagonia commits 1% of its total sales to environmental groups, since 1985 through 1% for the Planet, an organization of which Yvon Chouinard was a founding member. In 2015, the firm launched Common Threads Partnership, an online auction-style platform that facilitated direct sales of used Patagonia clothing.

In July 2020, Patagonia suspended its advertising on Facebook and Facebook’s photo-sharing app, Instagram, as part of the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign, which some U.S. civil rights organizations launched because they believed the social networking company was doing too little to curb hate speech on its sites.

In 2021, Patagonia announced it would “not be bound by convention” and would close stores and give employees vacation from December 25 to January 2.

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