I don’t like to think of myself as a businessman. I’ve made no secret that I hold a fairly skeptical view of the business world. That said, Patagonia, the company my wife and I founded four decades ago, has grown up to — by global standards — a medium-size business. And that bestows on our family a serious responsibility. The last line of Patagonia’s mission statement is “…use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” We’ve always taken that seriously.

Three examples: Every year for 30 years, Patagonia has donated one percent of its sales to grassroots environmental organizations. We helped initiate the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an organization of companies that produces more than a third of the clothing and footwear on the planet. In a very short time, the Coalition has launched an index of social and environmental performance that designers (and eventually consumers) can use to make better decisions when developing products or choosing materials. In 2012 we became one of California’s first B Corps (benefit corporations), which means that the values that helped make our company successful are now etched into our legal charter.

Now is the time for Patagonia to take the next logical step: to reach out beyond the framework of the apparel and outdoor industries. Today, my family and I are happy to launch $20 Million & Change, an internal fund to help like-minded, responsible start-up companies bring about positive benefit to the environment.

With the launch of this fund, we have reorganized Patagonia and our other businesses within a new holding company called Patagonia Works. While most holding companies are about diversification, Patagonia Works is dedicated to a single cause: using business to help solve the environmental crisis. Rose Marcario, President and CEO of Patagonia Works and Patagonia, Inc, has been instrumental in tripling profits for our company. She is also applying her business acumen and keen sense of social and environmental responsibility to new companies in five critical areas: clothing, yes, but also food, water, energy and waste. Rose has been responsible for the launch of Patagonia Provisions, which will soon expand beyond our smoked sockeye salmon (wild-caught in natal waters by First Nations tribes) to other foods that, like our salmon, are more thoughtfully sourced. The food business is, as much as the apparel or energy industries, environmentally broken. It takes more from the planet than it gives back. We aim to find ways to get what we want to eat by working with nature rather than against it.

Others might see Patagonia Works and $20 Million & Change as revolutionary business ventures; we think both are just next logical steps to doing business more responsibly. Economic growth for the past two centuries has been tied to an ever-spiraling carbon bonfire. Business – and human – success in the next 100 years will have to come from working with nature rather than using it up. That is a necessity, not a luxury as it’s seen now in most business quarters. We invite and encourage all companies to start to work with us in that direction.

Best regards,
Yvon Chouinard
Founder of Patagonia Works