Patagonia (clothing)

Patagonia, Inc.
Private benefit corporation
Industry Retail
Founded 1973
Headquarters Ventura, California, U.S.
Key people

Yvon Chouinard-Founder

Rose Marcario-CEO
Products Outdoor apparel
Revenue Increase $600 Million (2013)
Number of employees
Increase 2000 (2014)

Coordinates: 34°16′47″N 119°18′14″W / 34.2798°N 119.3040°W / 34.2798; -119.3040

Patagonia, Inc. is an American clothing company founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973 that sells and showcases mainly sustainable outdoor clothing. Based in Ventura, California,[1] the company is part of several environmental movements and is a certified B Corp,[2] meaning the company is committed to combatting public concerns (in this case environmental) alongside its profit motive.

The logo is the skyline of Cerro Fitz Roy looking west in Patagonia.


1957-1969: Chouinard Equipment

Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia and accredited rock climber,[3] began selling hand forged mountain climbing gear in 1957 through his company Chouinard Equipment. He worked alone selling his gear until 1965 when he partnered with Tom Frost in order to improve his products and address the growing supply and demand issue he faced.[4]

1970-Present: Patagonia

In 1970, Chouinard obtained rugby shirts from Scotland that he wore while climbing because the collar kept the climbing sling from hurting his neck.[4][5] Collared shirts were then designed and implemented into his merchandise line and quickly became the primary product sold. Chouinard Equipment was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1989 when it lost a series of lawsuits claiming "failure to inform" of safety issues related to usage of climbing hardware including one filed by the survivors of a climber who died in a fall after slipping out of a Chouinard climbing harness. Though they had long been an innovator in climbing hardware, the resultant increases in their product liability insurance are what Chouinard himself cites as the reason they decided they had to get out of that sector. Profit margins were always very much smaller on the climbing gear side of the business. The liquidated assets of the climbing gear side were purchased for $900,000 by Chouinard's longtime partner, Peter Metcalf, and reorganized as Black Diamond. Yvon Chouinard retained the profitable soft goods (clothing) division of the company which had already been rebranded as Patagonia. [6]

The lawsuits which triggered the bankruptcy were largely specious, at least in the opinion of most of the mountaineering and climbing community, as there were clear indications that the consumers who had sustained injuries or death had improperly used the equipment and Chouinard had, as did all climbing hardware companies, cautioned that proper training and experience were crucial in utilizing their products in what were objectively dangerous activities. Nonetheless, the bankruptcy and divestiture was a blow to Chouinard himself and the company and there remains some enmity between Patagonia and their rival, Black Diamond, which now competes directly with them in the outdoor clothing business.[6]


The company's roots are in clothing for rock and alpine climbing, but they now offer a diverse mix of apparel targeted towards skiers, surfers, climbers, and general comfort-wear. Patagonia employs a flex-time policy, allowing employees to take time off to go surfing.[7] One of its main product lines is the Capilene[8] base layer clothing. Patagonia recently started making surf-specific products, and currently has three different lines of wetsuits and many different models of swim trunks.

Though Patagonia is considered to be a sport-specific apparel manufacturer, some of the company's most popular products are general apparel. Patagonia fleeces, rain jackets, and coats are some of the most widely-worn products in the outdoor apparel industry. Patagonia received two National Geographic Adventure Blog "Gear of the Year" awards in 2010.[9]

Environmental Activism

Patagonia is a major contributor to environmental groups. Patagonia commits 1% of their total sales or 10% of their profit, whichever is more, to environmental groups. Yvon Chouinard was a founding member of One Percent for the Planet, an organization that encourages other businesses to do the same.[10] Members of One Percent have given more than $100 million to environmental groups since the organization was founded in 2002.[11] Patagonia is one of the six largest companies in One Percent.[12]

Patagonia often features their environmental campaigns in their catalogs and advertisements. Many of their recent campaigns include work with preventing oil drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge, "Ocean As A Wilderness", and "Don't Dam Patagonia".

In early 2008, Patagonia won the 'Eco Brand of the Year' and the best award at the Volvo Ecodesign Forum during the ISPO Trade Show in Munich.[13]

Patagonia also demonstrates their environmental consciousness in the design and construction of their facilities. An example is their Reno Nevada Service Center which employs green design and technologies to initially achieve a LEED Silver[14] and then later Gold certification.[15][16]

Patagonia initiatives

Patagonia largely focuses on helping the environment.[17] In addition to large global initiatives, the company also supports several smaller initiatives such as the World Trout Initiative,[18] Environmental Internships,[19] the Conservation Alliance,[20] and the Organic Exchange.[21] Recently, Patagonia launched a worldwide recycling initiative called the Common Threads Recycling Program and has a site devoted to the explanation of their recycling process called The Footprint Chronicles.[15]

One Percent for the Planet

One Percent for the Planet was established in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard and Craig Mathews. Members range from small to large companies from all over the world. Spawned from Patagonia’s original policy of contributing 1% of all sales to environmental organizations since 1985, the 1,486 members of 1% for the Planet each contribute 1% of their total sales to over 2,000 different environmental organizations every year.[15]

World Trout Initiative

Developed by Yvon Chouinard and James Prosek in 2005, the World Trout Initiative works to protect the endangered fish of the world through grants to organizations that protect threatened fish.[18] The mission of the World Trout Initiative is to "identify the individuals and groups that protect native fish, to tell their story and to support their conservation efforts by placing money into the hands of the actual groups protecting the fish."[22] In the past year alone the World Trout Initiative has granted $75,000 for Fish and Habitat Enhancement, according to FlyFishMagazine.[23]

Environmental internships

Patagonia started their Environmental Internships program in 1993. A Patagonia employee can take a leave of absence with full pay and benefits to volunteer within an environmental non-profit of their choice for up to two months.[19] Employees can work anywhere in the country on any project they want, and over 700 employees have taken advantage of this opportunity to date.[19] Patagonia does not worry about losing workers for a couple months because, according to Lu Setnicka, director of training for Patagonia, "[Patagonia] still consider[s] that they are working for Patagonia, but they are having the opportunity to bring a particular skill set to an organization that could really benefit from it, in some ways more than it would from a grant check. It also gives the employees the opportunity to dive deeper into an issue, partnering with a group that they are interested in."[24] Patagonia also states that, over the years, some employees have left the company to permanently work for the nonprofit that they interned for.[24]

Common Threads recycling program

The Common Threads Initiative is a partnership between the Company and customers to take mutual responsibility for the cradle to grave life of the products Patagonia makes and people purchase. Originally launched in 2005, the first goal of the program was to make every item Patagonia sells recyclable. The first recyclable item was Patagonia’s Baselayers, but the program has since expanded to several other clothing items.[25] The Common Threads Recycling Program relies on both Patagonia and its customers to accomplish reducing, reusing and repairing, and recycling. The Common Threads Recycling Program allows customers to bring back any Patagonia clothing with the special Common Threads label on it and put it into the store recycling bin. Patagonia then ships the clothing to refurbishment centers around the world where the fabric is processed and turned into a new Patagonia product.[25] This reduces the amount of virgin material used for Patagonia’s products. Patagonia’s original goal was to make all of its clothing recyclable by fall of 2010; however, they will not reach this goal until fall of 2011 according to the Patagonia holiday catalog which features an article about the initiative.[25]

The Footprint Chronicles

This interactive website lets a customer follow a specific piece of clothing through its entire journey from production to recycle. The website is meant to give customers a glimpse into what Patagonia is doing, and leaves an open forum for customers to comment and try to make the process even better.[26] The point of the website is to help educate consumers about the ecological impact of products, to show customers the good and the bad side of Patagonia, and to open up to suggestions for how they can improve the processes that are still hurting the environment.[27] The Footprint Chronicles features videos about Patagonia’s social and environmental responsibility and easy-to-use contact information for customers to use.[26][28]

Patagonia Supports

The Organic Exchange

The Organic Exchange is an organization that helps promote education about and use of organic materials in clothing and industry, primarily organic cotton.[29] Patagonia has supported this organization since its establishment in 2002, and Patagonia was one of the first companies to switch to entirely organic cotton.[21] Other large retailers, such as Nike, also support the Organic Exchange.[29]

The Conservation Alliance

Founded in 1989 by Patagonia, The North Face, REI and Kelty, the Conservation Alliance encourages outdoor sporting goods stores to contribute monetarily to environmental causes.[30] With over 170 members, 100% of the proceeds go directly to environmental organizations. In 2010, the Conservation Alliance donated $900,000 to these causes.[15]

Move to use traceable down

As of fall 2014, Patagonia uses 100% traceable down to ensure that birds were not force-fed or live-plucked and that down is not blended with down from unknown sources. The company is working with animal welfare organization FOUR PAW to audit its supply chain.[31][32] This move was made in response to previous criticism from FOUR PAWS, which had said Patagonia used live-plucked down feathers and downs of force-fed geese.[33] In a statement on their website, Patagonia denied use of live-plucking but said it had used down procured from the foie-gras industry.[34]

Criticism on wool sourcing

In February 2005 Patagonia's sourcing of wool from Australia was implicated by PETA. The criticism mainly concerned the practice of mulesing. Over the years Patagonia has since then moved their sourcing of wool from Australia to South America and the cooperative Ovis 21. However, in August 2015 PETA released new video footage showing how sheep were treated cruelly in Ovis 21 farms.[35] This lead Patagonia to stop sourcing wool from Ovis 21.[36] Currently there is no information on how Patagonia is sourcing their wool.


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  8. The name Capilene, a registered trademark of Carmel Olefins, is used for a family of polypropylene homopolymers.
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