America’s Most Unlikely Business Guru

by Christopher Paul on May 29, 2012

The WSJ profiled the CEO of Pategonia, Yvon Chouinard, and wrote a nice article on how he turned his love of moutain climbing into a world renown sporting goods provider all while maintaining a unique level of corporate responsibility that others are emulating with great success:

“Skeptics argue that this kind of feel-good stuff could never work at a giant, publicly listed corporation, or at one that doesn’t charge eye-popping prices for its gourmet gear. But when Chouinard counseled Walmart on sustainability, the retail behemoth found it actually saved money through environmental initiatives, like reducing its packaging and water consumption. ”We are very focused on lowering prices for our customers,“ says Fox. ”There were some investments we needed to make at the beginning, but the returns were quick enough that it came back in a reasonable time frame."

Similarly, Levi Strauss—with more than 10 times the annual revenue of Patagonia—has embraced Chouinard’s efforts to set data-driven benchmarks for improving apparel makers’ environmental practices. Levi’s has spent the past 18 months redesigning processes to save 45 million gallons of water, along with the energy that would have heated that water. This is not simply altruism. While the company won’t share specific numbers, “the business savings costs are real,” says Michael Kobori, Levi’s V.P. of social and environmental sustainability."

It’s because Patagonia uses recycled materials that I’ve switched brands from a series of companies to them. My son’t sun shirts and my new exercise gear is made from 100% recycled materials; they certainly do cost more in terms of dollars but the payoff in responsibility and any lessons my son might learn from reusing or recylcing materials is worth it.

The WSJ is under a paywall so I don’t know if you’ll be able to get to the article. Normally, they’d fall under my no link policy but I do believe Patagonia is doing great things with it’s products and it’s message to other companies.

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