Monday, November 12, 2007

Yvon Chouinard's revolution

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, speak about the social and environmental responsibility of businesses. While he made some great points about how corporations need to work towards a sustainable future, and gave examples of how Patagonia has eschewed focusing on growth to ensure job security and less costs to the environment, there was one thing he said and one thing he did that really made me respect him as a leader in corporate social responsibility.

First, he acknowledged that because of the nature of his business, selling new consumer goods to the public, Patagonia will always have a cost to the environment no matter how much they work to reduce pollution, material waste, and use recycled materials. He encouraged us all to use products until they are no longer usable instead of going out to buy new clothes or other products when we don't need them. I've never heard anyone who's trying to sell me stuff tell me not to buy their stuff before!

Secondly, at the end of his talk, the hosts presented Yvon with a bag of goodies as a thanks for speaking to us. He politely declined, saying "I have everything I need." That small gesture showed the thousand audience members that he was committed in his own life to the philosophies he espouses in public.

I'm not writing this post to recommend Patagonia above other companies as a "better" business in any way. I want to show that there are corporate owners out there who care, in a meaningful way, as much as we do about the environment and in the people who live with us on this Earth. We must find a way to work together towards our common goal!


Susan said...

Grist did a great interview with him last year; he really is a FOUNDER, not just a leader, of the corporate responsibility/environmental sustainability movement. Even though Patagonia products are expensive from a simple living perspective, I haven't found too many other "casual business" clothes made from organic cotton. It's worth the extra cost to me, to know that many of Patagonia's products are better for the environment and for my family. Plus, since they're more expensive, I make sure it's something I "need," not just something I "want."

Soul Economy said...

I really enjoy discovering companies such as Patagonia who are driving sustainability and truly honour their core values. I call these “soulful enterprises”. It would be great if their products were made available in Australia!