What can manufacturers study from Patagonia?
Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard has given away his company to save the planet: receiving wide applause in the process. Here, Brooklyn Brothers’ head of strategy Will Sansom asks if ‘stakeholder capitalism’ is now the new brand purpose
If you work in the business of brands, last week’s news was inescapable: Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard declaring “Earth is now our only shareholder”.
Indeed Chouinard damn near broke the internet, or at least LinkedIn, with his characteristically elegant announcement that 100% of Patagonia’s voting stock is transferring to the Patagonia Purpose Trust. So each year, the money they make after reinvesting in the business will be distributed as a dividend to help fight the environmental crisis and defend nature.
As one of my industry pals wrote in a post sharing the news: “A billion dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Giving away a billion dollars.” Preach.
As significant as this news feels, it is also, in a way, expected; the ultimate goal for a brand that has long been leading on the field of brand purpose. Shout out to the Footprint Chronicles (where manufacturing met radical transparency); that ad in the New York Times telling people NOT to buy their products (but rather reuse and recycle through their dedicated platform) and – most recently – donating a record-breaking $10 million-worth of Black Friday profits to grassroots organisations that “protect our air, water and soil for future generations”.
This latest development, however, sees them not just lead but start playing on a different field altogether – that of genuine stakeholder capitalism. At the Brooklyn Brothers we work closely with the Financial Times, championing precisely this shift into a world of better business through the New Agenda platform. They describe stakeholder capitalism thus: “balancing the financial benefit of shareholders with the interests of employees, customers, and the environment, among others”. And in case you hadn’t heard, it’s all the rage; not just with woke brand strategists but people who have money, know about money and are rather good at investing money.