Patagonia Pushes Anti-Consumerism Agenda

by | Feb 13, 2013

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Outdoor clothing and equipment company Patagonia started focusing on sustainability after staff at its Boston store became sick from formaldehyde, which was seeping from clothing stored in the basement, the company’s senior editor Vincent Stanley told the Guardian.

That incident more than two decades ago prompted Patagonia to investigate and understand every part of its supply chain, setting the company on course to implement far-reaching initiatives to lower its carbon footprint, disclose chemical use, consume less water, recycle all of its products and ultimately, reduce consumption.

Now the company is going a step further. This fall, Patagonia is launching a two-year responsible economy campaign aimed at finding new measures of success that do not depend on selling more goods and services, the Guardian reports.

The company didn’t provide details of what the campaign might look like, or which direction it will go. The idea, at least at this early stage, is simply to discuss what a more responsible economy would look like.

Patagonia has made some bold moves in the past to improve the sustainability of its business and challenge the basic concept of consumerism. In the run-up to Christmas 2012, Patagonia ran a full-page advertisement in the New York Times showing a picture of its R2 jacket beneath the words “Don’t Buy This Jacket,” a message intended to get people to consider the environment before purchasing products.

Two years ago, Patagonia partnered with eBay to launch its Common Threads Initiative, another campaign aimed at reducing consumption. The Common Threads program asks customers to make a pledge on the Patagonia website to not buy anything if they don’t need it. As part of the program, Patagonia created a Common Threads Initiative store, hosted on the eBay site, to encourage its customers to buy and sell used products.

Last year, the company became the first company in California to elect to be a “benefit corporation.” The legal status affords a company’s directors legal cover to consider environmental and social benefits over financial returns.

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