The billionaire owner of Patagonia has sold his company to an environmental and non-profit trust.
The company will continue to produce outdoor clothing, camping supplies and other goods, but now all proceeds will go to organizations to tackle the climate crisis.
Yvon Chouinard, the company’s founder and reluctant billionaire, said when the decision was announced: “I never wanted to be a businessman.
“I started out as a craftsman, making climbing gear for my friends and myself, then moved into clothing.
“As we began to see the scale of global warming and ecological destruction, and our own contribution to it, Patagonia was committed to using our company to change the way business was done. If we could doing the right thing while earning enough to pay the bills, we could influence customers and other businesses, and maybe change the system along the way.”
Previously, Patagonia divested 1% of its sales each year, and 2018 changed the company’s business, stating, “We’re in business to save our planet.
But now Mr. Chouinard has said it was “not enough”.
The company’s voting shares will go to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, which will “protect the company’s values.” The non-voting shares will go to Holdfast Collective, a non-profit organization that will use company profits annually for environmental actions.
When deciding what to do with the company, Chouinard said selling the company and donating the profits, or going public, would not guarantee Patagonia would continue its activist role.
In recent years, the company has become more outspoken on climate issues.
In 2018, Patagonia said it would donate all money earned from President Trump’s tax cuts to environmental causes.
A year earlier, in 2017, he even joined a lawsuit to stop the federal government from reducing Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah.
A reluctant billionaire
Mr. Chouinard has always been uncomfortable with the enormous personal wealth his successful company has brought.
He told The New York Times: “I was in Forbes magazine listed as a billionaire, which really, really pissed me off.
“I don’t have $1 billion in the bank. I don’t drive Lexus.”
When deciding what to do next, even her children didn’t want to take over the business.
Ryan Gellert, the company’s chief executive, told the NYT, “They were very into this. I know it might sound flippant, but they really embody this notion that every billionaire is a political failure.”
From now on, all the company’s money will be directly allocated to “the fight against the environmental crisis and the defense of nature”.
“It’s been nearly 50 years since we began our responsible business journey, and we’re just getting started,” Chouinard wrote.
“If we have any hope of a prosperous planet – let alone a prosperous business – 50 years from now, it’s going to require us all to do what we can with the resources we have. That’s another way that we found doing our part.
“Despite its vastness, the Earth’s resources are not infinite, and it is clear that we have exceeded its limits. But it is also resilient. We can save our planet if we commit to it.”