22 September 2022
Yvon Chouinard is the billionaire founder of outdoor fashion firm Patagonia, and he recently gave up ownership and donated his business to fight climate change. Patagonia will now give away any profits not reinvested in the company to a charitable trust.
Chouinard founded the company in the early 70s, and over the years, his outdoor fashion brand has garnered immense trust and a cult-like following for its sustainable efforts. For example, Patagonia produces clothes that are guaranteed for life and repaired by the brand at relatively low pricing.
Today, Patagonia is well known for its commitment to protecting the environment, and this recent charitable act from Chouinard is a great example of what the brand stands for. Currently, Patagonia's online store says that the Earth is now their only shareholder.
The label initially went viral for its creative marketing campaign, "Don't buy this jacket." The company was essentially requesting customers to consider the environmental impact of their product before they bought it and to only buy what they needed.
The 83-year-old rock climber, environmentalist, and billionaire philanthropist has mentioned numerous times how he never wanted to be a businessman.
His passion for rock climbing led him to create some climbing spikes for himself and his rock climbing buddies. They could wedge the metal spikes on rocks to help them climb. Next, Chouinard followed up his spikes by making outdoor clothing.
His brand was instantly successful and garnered a cult following of other outdoor enthusiasts. Almost five decades after its initial launch, Patagonia sales are in the billions today.
Despite being a self-made billionaire, Chouinard has always steered clear of his billionaire status. He doesn't like to be seen as a wealthy person and has even said it on record.
Depending on the well-being of the business, Chouinard's donation will amount to nearly $100 million per annum. This huge chunk of profits will exclusively go towards climate causes that help sustain the environment.
When asked about his decision to give away the company, he responded by saying that despite the Earth's enormity, its resources are finite, and it is clear to him that we have exceeded the limits.
Despite Patagonia's odd marketing campaigns, sales have been consistent and growing. Many critics have disputed the company's approach, saying that such marketing moves have raised Patagonia's cachet and encouraged consumers to spend more rather than curbing their consumption.
Others point out that the outdoor fashion brand offers products at relatively high prices. In response, Patagonia claims that its prices reflect the promise of a product that lasts a lifetime.
The chairman of the company recognized the higher retail price of its garments and responded by saying that low-priced fast fashion is an abomination to Patagonia.
He further claimed that the company ensures that it uses the least amount of chemicals, water, and carbon to produce its products, which most often results in relatively higher costs. This is quite true, and any conscious consumer knows that sustainability comes at a price, often in dollars.
However, marketing experts still believe that the Patagonia billionaire's move to donate to the company could inadvertently and ironically result in more consumption. From a marketing perspective, it is a genius move in today's landscape that could boost sales even further.
While some may think that Chouinard's decision to give away ownership is a marketing ploy, most agree that the founder's lifelong commitment to the environment is proof that this is about more than just money.
Others say that even if it is a marketing ploy, it is an inspired one that will genuinely do some good for the environment for as long as the company stands.
Of course, Chouinard is not the first nor the only philanthropist to donate multimillions and billions to charitable causes. Tech boss and Microsoft founder Bill Gates is perhaps the most notable example of a philanthropic billionaire.
His current net worth is well over $100 billion, and he famously pledged to give away all his billions to charity back in 2010. However, since that pledge, Gate's net worth has increased to more than twice what it was.
Recently, he vowed to drop off the world's rich list and made an enormous $20 billion donation to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic fund he cofounded with his wife.
Similarly, others like Charles "Chuck" Feeney, George Soros, Warren Buffet, and Mark Zuckerberg have also donated billions in their lifetime, and many plan to donate a lot more in the future.
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