Patagonia founder gives up ownership of his eco-fashion brand to help fight the climate crisis

Author: Maria Chiorando

Read Time:   |  25th September 2022

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard shared an open letter on the brand's website saying he needed to 'find a way to put more money into fighting the crisis while keeping the company’s values intact'

The founder of major eco-conscious fashion brand Patagonia has revealed that he’s relinquished ownership of his company in a bid to fight the climate crisis.

Businessman and philanthropist Yvon Chouinard, 83, founded the company in 1973. Since then, it has grown to have a reported value of some $3 billion.

Being environmentally conscious has always been a cornerstone of the company’s ethos, but according to Yvon writing in an open letter shared on the website, titled Earth is now our only shareholder, while they were ‘doing [their] best to address the environmental crisis, it’s not enough’.

When looking at solutions, Yvon said he had considered selling the company and giving the money to environmental charities, or taking it public, but concluded that losing control of Patagonia could mean putting its employees and values at risk.

Patagonia profits

Instead, he wrote, in order to do more to try and tackle the climate crisis, he and his family have relinquished ownership of the brand to two non-profits.

This means any profits not reinvested into the brand will got to the Patagonia Purpose Trust and the Holdfast Collective.

The letter said: “Instead of ‘going public’, you could say we’re ‘going purpose’. Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.

“Here’s how it works: 100% of the company’s voting stock transfers to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, created to protect the company’s values; and 100% of the non-voting stock had been given to the Holdfast Collective, a non-profit dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature.

“The funding will come from Patagonia: Each year, the money we make after reinvesting in the business will be distributed as a dividend to help fight the crisis.”

‘Future-proofed’

According to business analyst Theo Leggett, writing for the BBC, part of Patagonia’s attraction ‘comes from the fact that its environmentally conscious stance isn’t new’.

He added: “But it’s still pretty hard to save the planet, if your business depends on selling stuff, however many recycled or renewable products you use.

“By ringfencing future profits for environmental causes, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard has done his best to square that circle.

“But he is also clearly trying to ensure that the Patagonia brand is future-proofed and can never fall into the hands of the kind of companies he has accused of greenwashing in the past.”

Do you love clothes, but want to be more conscious of the planet in how you dress? Read our article on vegan fashion dilemmas – and how to solve them

Featured image: Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

Written by

Maria Chiorando

Maria is an editor and journalist. Her work has been published by the Huffington Post, the Guardian, TechnoBuffalo, Plant Based News, and Kent on Sunday among other national and regional titles.

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