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Going Green: Patagonia


How this retail company has made the environment a part of its business in more ways than one.

Many people know Patagonia for its outdoor clothing and equipment, but there are a lot more layers to it than that. It donates a portion of its sales to environmental groups, has the largest garment repair centre in North America, encourages people to return their worn out Patagonia products and has been a Certified B Corp since 2011.

The Patagonia website also has an abundance of resources for individuals and businesses that want to be more environmentally and socially responsible. And these examples are just the beginning. We caught up with Dane O'Shanassy, Patagonia's country director for Australia and New Zealand, to hear more about the environmental core of this business.

Dane O'Shanassy, Patagonia's country director for Australia and New Zealand.

Dane O'Shanassy, Patagonia country director for Australia and New Zealand. Image: Patagonia

What does your company do and how is it green?

Yvon Chouinard started [Patagonia] in 1973, making hardware and clothing for climbing. Today, Patagonia also produces quality products for surfing, fly-fishing, snow sports, trail running and everyday life, but we're in business to accomplish a lot more than making clothing and profit. Our company is guided by our mission statement: "We're in business to save our home planet". It's the touchstone for every decision we make.

Every year, we donate 1% of our sales to grassroots environmental groups through our 1% For The Planet commitment. Last year we funded 19 grantees and this year that's grown to 21.

Another example is our Worn Wear repair program.

The best way to reduce the environmental and carbon footprint of your clothes is to keep them in use longer, by you or by someone else.

That is why, as a company that sells clothes, we encourage less buying and more repair and reuse.

We're excited to be continuing to scale up these programs, and to also start a conversation around Regenerative Organic Agriculture this year, which is linked to our raw materials and also our sustainably-sourced food business: Patagonia Provisions.

What inspires you and your business to be green?

Patagonia's founders and employees are people who spend a lot of time outdoors. We are surfers, hikers, climbers and trail runners, and our ability to enjoy these pursuits is intimately linked to the state of the environment.

We have borne witness to a sharp decline in the wild places we love, and so our environmental initiatives program grew out of our realisation of the extent of the environmental crisis.

We are constantly evaluating the environmental impact of our business operations and supply chain, and how we can best use our resources.

We're also an activist company, publicly advocating for environmental protection, fair trade and stricter labour standards, and supporting thousands of grass-roots environmental activists.

Now with eight stores and more than 360 stockists across Australia and New Zealand, it's been proven to us that there's no trade-off between being commercially successful and actually creating a positive impact. We look at the challenges we face and, as we tackle them, we tell that story honestly and simply.

Why is being green personally important to you?

I believe that prioritising our planet applies to your life too. It's known that being more connected to nature improves your health, and once you're out amongst it you can't help but want to help protect it, whether that's shopping and travelling consciously, managing your waste carefully or volunteering with local conservation groups.

With the current state of the global climate emergency, as a father of a young son and daughter, I also think a lot about what the future might be like for them. How my and everyone else's actions will directly impact how kids today grow into adults and live out their lives.

Could you describe one small step people could take towards being greener?

It's been inspiring to see a lot of people talking about ways they can reduce their individual impact: buying less, managing waste more carefully, modifying meals and jumping on bikes, etc. But if we're going to save our home planet, we're really going to need our governments – from local to state, to federal and even international coalitions – to answer with action.

Businesses, too, can be an influence for positive change, and that's why we stand with the activists who are on the frontline fighting to save wild places, finding solutions to climate change and bringing awareness to social and environmental issues.

One of the most impactful steps you can take is to put your resources (your voice, time, energy and money) behind the leaders and businesses who are striving to protect our environment.

What is one resource that you think people should read/watch/consume to understand more about sustainability and going green?

I'm a big fan of Damon Gameau's recent film 2040 and have watched it with my family a couple of times now. I think it outlines the worrying trajectory we're on but also the brilliant future the next generation could have if we employed all the tools available to us right now.

Patagonia's founder Yvon Chouinard and [our] director of philosophy Vincent Stanley co-wrote The Responsible Company. It's all about what they learned from Patagonia's first 40 years; how the company and its culture gained confidence and was able to become progressively better. This book is a must-read for any business wanting to learn from Patagonia's journey, and it comes as a part of our Patagonia Business Library set.

Going Green is an interview series that sheds light on companies, organisations and initiatives that have a focus on sustainability and ethics. We ask a representative from each company the same five questions so you can get a snapshot of the work they are doing to help protect the planet.

Want more info and tips for making greener choices? Check out the Finder Green homepage.

More from Finder Green

Image credits: Getty Images, Supplied (Patagonia)

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