We all know Patagonia as the high-end outerwear company that provides the perfect amount of warmth on these crisp fall days. What we don’t see is what goes on behind the company’s doors. Patagonia was founded in California in 1972 by Yvon Chouinard, who never intended for his product to be so fashion forward. Maybe fashion forward is the wrong term to use here- it’s not like someone would wear a Patagonia to a formal ball in NYC, but you catch my drift.
In terms of corporate social responsibility, Patagonia is light years ahead of the rest of the competition. While Nike dealt with fallout from its poor manufacturing processes in the late 1990’s, Patagonia was already using 100% organic cotton in its products and creating a fleece created with recycled polyester that comes from plastic water bottles. To take things a step further, Patagonia pays a voluntary “earth-tax”, which means that it donates 10% of all profits or 1% of sales (whichever is higher) to environmental efforts ranging from protecting certain areas from things like mining and deforestation. Chouinard stands behind the notion that his company’s clothing is designed to be durable and long lasting.
If you check out Patagonia’s FAQ web page, you can see that most of the questions pertain to overseas factories. Unlike Nike, Patagonia is quite candid in its responses about manufacturing facilities. Instead of hiding information or flat out lying, Patagonia is very open about Chinese factories and workplace conditions. My first instinct is to applaud Patagonia for its environmental efforts, but the Nike case has taught me to take everything with a grain of salt. That is to say that it would be entirely possible for Patagonia to cover unethical practices with multitudes of “committees” and “task forces” like Nike did. I honestly do not believe that Patagonia follows Nike’s path, but it will be really interesting to investigate this further for Paper 2. Perhaps I am biased because of my personal attachment to the brand, but I do not believe that a company willing to donate a considerable portion of profits to environmental efforts would be as stingy in manufacturing as Nike was.