Интернет-магазин DONTA

Patagonia, the ‘Proudly Unfashionable’ Company

Chief executive officer Ryan Gellert tackled the dilemma of how to be profitable and sustainable at the same time.

Patagonia, the ‘Proudly Unfashionable’ Company

Ryan Gellert and Archana Raum of Patagonia.

It’s a delicate balancing act — how to encourage customers not to buy things they don’t need and still run a healthy, profitable business. But over the past 51 years, Patagonia has managed to find a way.

Ever since Yvon Chouinard created the outdoors brand in 1973, a big part of its ethos has been to build a business that is functional, successful and also sustainable.

In a conversation with Archana Raum, Patagonia’s managing editor of responsible business, the company’s chief executive officer Ryan Gellert, said: “There’s an old adage, and that is, the most sustainable jacket is one that already exists. We’ve campaigned on this topic for a long time, we’ve really worked in partnership with our community and our customers to encourage them not to buy things that they don’t need.”

He said the brand encourages shoppers to ask themselves several important questions: “What are you going to use it for? Can it replace something that you already have? If it does, what are you going to do with that something? And then how do you keep this product in use as long as possible and make sure that if you’re not using it, it gets to somebody who will.”

Those are the reasons Patagonia has embraced product resale, which it calls Worn Wear, and recycling, where it takes back pieces at the end of their life, Gellert said.

He stressed that “figuring out how to make product with a lower footprint, while critical, doesn’t do enough to negate just making too much product.”

Patagonia has long campaigned against overconsumption and Gellert said that will never change despite the world’s focus on businesses making more and more money. “I don’t think that there’s anything anti-capitalist about making high-quality product and encouraging people not to buy things that they don’t need. I certainly recognize it changes the model from the current one, which is a bit of a race to the bottom on how much can we sell, but I don’t think the growth in consumer goods that we’re navigating as a species is sustainable. This has to change.”

He said Patagonia customers “think deeply about these issues and in addition to making purchasing decisions that reflect their values, they generally are more active in protecting our home planet and engaging in civil society in a variety of ways.”

But as the CEO of a company, Gellert acknowledged that he wrestles with the question of where “profit sits next to purpose.” Over the past half-century, Patagonia has managed to “ride that knife edge,” he said, and never lose sight of its mission statement, which is: ‘We’re in business to save our home planet.’”

But Patagonia can’t do it alone, he said. “If we’re going to solve the climate and ecological crisis, it’s going to require government, civil society and the business sector all working in unison. I think the business sector has been missing in that conversation. We’re a business. We’re an ascendant business. We’re a profitable business. We’re a successful business. We make products and we provide services that people appreciate. And I think in doing that, we can be an example of a different form of business.”

Gellert said it didn’t take Chouinard long to realize that the products he was making for himself and other climbers who enjoyed the pristine outdoors would ultimately negatively impact the environment he loved so much. So he did an about-face to “clean climbing,” a philosophy that still drives Patagonia today.

Gellert said as a result of the company’s history, size and scale, Patagonia can now participate in discussions about how a consumer goods company can encourage people to think differently about consumption while also tackling the role business needs to play in the face of “the climate and ecological crisis” the world is facing.

He admitted that the hardest part is getting other business leaders to participate while “the most fertile ground is talking to customers, to students, to employees of other businesses, and bringing creative storytelling.”

He pointed to Patagonia’s newly released film, titled “Shitthropocene,” which addressed the dilemma facing the fashion community — an industry that accounts for up to 10 percent of carbon emissions and whose products overflow landfills around the world. He said the film not only educates people but also provides alternatives and “ways that people can engage in activism.”

Studies show that by 2030, the apparel industry could actually account for 50 percent of carbon emissions, but there is still time to address the problem if businesses step up and take responsibility.

“I don’t think that there is a place in our future for any model described as fast fashion, the notion of triggering people to buy things they don’t need, making things of low quality and then building an infrastructure that allows you to just toss things away,” he said. “That whole model is flawed. We’ve got to create an environment where that’s no longer acceptable.”

In addition, he said Patagonia has never followed the traditional fashion calendar and created seasonal product. Instead, it promotes quality products that can be repaired and can work in a wide range of environments. “We joke a lot that we’re proudly unfashionable,” he said. “But it’s creating timeless product. And that includes timeless colors. And that does kind of fly in the face of what the norm is in the industry.”

Gellert concluded his remarks with a piece of advice for other apparel industry brands: “You need to understand what your values are and commit deeply and permanently to making decisions across the breadth of your business — including in your supply chain — in relationship to all the impacted stakeholders: employees, customers, those that make your product and beyond. I think it’s understanding your footprint, being very consistent and addressing every challenge that you can. And understanding that it’s a journey really without an end.”