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Planet Over Profit at Patagonia

Since its founding in 1973 by Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia has continually expanded its outdoor apparel and gear offering as well as its environmental activism




PATAGONIA INC. (VENTURA, CALIF.), renowned for outdoor apparel, equipment and rations, is a pacesetter respecting people and planet. For a half-century, Patagonia has sought ways to lessen its manufacturing impact while supporting grassroots environmentalism and fair labor practices.

Rock climber Yvon Chouinard awakened to corporate responsibility as sole proprietor of Tin Shed, his blacksmith shop in Ventura. Back then, he pioneered removable climbing hardware to reduce climbers’ environmental impact.

Planet Over Profit at Patagonia

He later opened Great Pacific Iron Works (Patagonia’s first store) in an old meatpacking plant nearby.

Five decades later, Chouinard astonished retailing by transferring 98 percent of Patagonia’s shares to Holdfast Collective, a 501(c)(4) non-profit, whose initiatives include wildlands preservation, nature-based climate solutions and funding grassroots environmental organizations along with politicians fighting climate change. The remaining two percent went to Patagonia Purpose Trust, which now runs the company and guides its environmental and philanthropic efforts. At the time, Chouinard wrote: “We’re making Earth our only shareholder.”

Planet Over Profit at Patagonia 📷 COURTESY OF PATAGONIA


Patagonia was an early champion of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and, in 2002, co-founded the “1% for the Planet Fund,” the international organization whose members contribute at least one percent of annual revenue to environmental causes. Patagonia was the first in California to achieve certification as a B Corporation, a private certification of for-profit companies of their social and environmental performance. The company’s long list of environmental accolades includes recognition from U.S. Department of State for Climate Innovation as well as receiving a Champion of the Earth award from the United Nations.

And now the retailer has received recognition from VMSD: Patagonia was named the 2023 VMSD/Peter Glen Retailer of the Year for its commitment to sustainability, customer service and in-store innovation. Chosen through a three-round vote of VMSD’s Editorial Advisory Board, Patagonia joins a long list of retailers since the award’s inception in 2001, including Story, Target, Amazon, Walgreens and many more.

Patagonia remains committed to high standards of manufacturing. Its high-quality production inspired “Worn Wear,” a program to buy back and repair its previously owned apparel and gear for other users. The “Worn Wear x Patagonia” store in Chicago embodies its “better than new” ethos. There, customers can trade in gear, buy used and repaired items or find the latest clothing and equipment – the majority Fair Trade Certified – made with organic and recycled materials.

Adaptive reuse guides its location strategy. Patagonia freestanding stores – 70 worldwide – are found in former repair shops, warehouses and retail locations saved from demolition or decay. And years before chain retailers would rethink store-as-community-gathering-spot, Patagonia created space for environmental and social justice events as an in-store amenity.


Planet Over Profit at Patagonia ABOVE: Pataonia is known for its sustainable design sensibilities, evident through its store design.

“We believe in providing customers with space to engage with our products and employees,” says Cam Dampier, Patagonia’s Head of Stores. “Our stores are a way for the community to interact with the company, and our staff are ambassadors of the brand.” Applicants clearly understand that applying for work means becoming an “environmental activist,” he notes.


Patagonia began and remains customer-focused. “We empower (employees) to find unique ways to serve the community.” It might mean finding a cab for an elderly community member to attend an in-store event “or scouring our distribution centers, stores and outlets to find a replacement for a sentimental piece that a customer loves.”

Planet Over Profit at Patagonia

In 1982, Peter Glen began writing a monthly column for VMSD that ran until his untimely passing in October 2001.

His topical columns in one year alone covered trends and traditions (“Who Killed Santa Claus”), inspiration (“Five New Ideas from Superstition Springs”), service (“Battered by Barneys”), fashion (“Feeding on Grunge”) and conventional wisdom (“Survival 2000”) among others.

He later tackled the AIDS epidemic and championed employee empowerment, regularly relating his own hospitality and shopping experiences. He also wrote about his own (short-lived) foray into retailing with a store called Flatiron. From afar, he might chastise or commend c-suite execs, vendors, suppliers and trades. Whatever the subject, there would be letters.

In addition to columns, Glen contributed to a BBC Television documentary on the history of shopping. On the business side, a sampling of Glen’s diverse clients ranged from Action Motorsports, Carson Pirie Scott & Co., Goodwill Industries, International Council of Shopping Centers, Macy’s West, P.A. Bergner, Saatchi & Saatchi and Spencer Gifts. During his career, Glen was an in-demand keynote and motivational speaker.

“It’s Not My Department!” Glen’s first book was published in 1990 and reissued in 2002. An online review from 2009 read: “Anyone in the service industry should consider this a ‘textbook’ for how to be successful at whatever level in an organization you are.” His second book, “10 Years of Peter Glen: 100 Essays on the Importance of Work, Life, and other Matters of Consequence,” published by ST Publications Inc., followed in 1994, collecting the first decade of his magazine columns. “Encore!” Glen’s third book featured more than 50 later VMSD columns. All are available from online book resellers.





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