This story begins like few others. Discontent, revolt, passion, interest and enthusiasm. All mixed up in a young rebel from the 1950s, passionate about environmental causes, nature and extreme sports. His name? Yvon Chouinard, the founder of what would later become Patagonia.
Chouinard was a fan of climbing and one day he realised that the iron spikes used in this sport were an assault on nature. This was because the bolts had to be left in the rocks. Therefore, in 1957, the founder of Patagonia decided to create a steel piton tempered with chromium and molybdenum in the garage of his parents' home. That was the starting point for the brand, which has distinguished itself as a creator of environmentally friendly equipment. Selling each python for a dollar and a half, Chouinard was so successful that he decided to create Chouinard Equipment, where he would later partner with his friend Tom Frost.
By the 1970s, the company was already making headlines. Sustainability was one of the differentiating characteristics and was extremely respected. An example of this was the discontinuation of the climbing equipment that represented 70% of sales, as it continued to destroy the rocks. But Chouinard didn't stop there and created one of the biggest novelties of the time: a reusable aluminium python.
However, despite the success, the company's profit margin was low and the entrepreneur decided to invest in the outdoor sports clothing industry. The influence came from a holiday in the United Kingdom, where he discovered that the clothes used in rugby were ideal for climbing due to their resistance. Thus, in 1973, Patagonia was born, inspired by the imposing Mount Fitz Roy in the southern region of Patagonia.
A risky bet, sportswear was a little-explored novelty and it was in the 1980s that it achieved fame. With a bet on colourful clothes, Patagonia became a trend and the clothing department became more successful than the technical equipment department.
But Chouinard did not know how to stop and in 1996 he innovated again when he decided to change the normal cotton line for organic cotton, when he learnt that the use of pesticides on the plantations polluted the rivers and contaminated the workers. It risked 25% of its annual sales and increased production costs considering that organic cotton was three times more expensive than normal cotton. Priorities changed and the use of natural and recyclable materials became the rule and environmental activism part of the brand identity.
The brand currently advocates conscious capitalism, through campaigns that get the consumer to question whether they really need that product and that help increase the life cycle of clothing. The brand suggests customers buy little, even its products. At Patagonia it is believed that the contribution of companies to society should go beyond profit.
A company is nothing without its workers
Workers in garment industry factories are among the lowest paid in the world. For Patagonia, it's not enough just to look after the planet. It must also look after those who are on it and who cross its path.
Although the brand does not own any of the production factories, Patagonia has several programs aimed at workers' welfare. What happens is that the brand pays extra for each piece that is produced. This money is given directly to the workers who then, among themselves, decide how they want to use the money, either for the creation of nurseries or for their own spending. In addition, the programmes also promote the health and safety of the workers. So every time you see the words Fair Trade on the label you can be sure that whoever made your jumper has been valued and has a decent working environment.
To date, Patagonia's Fair Trade programme has touched over 72,000 workers in ten countries around the world. 82% of the brand's current line is Fair Trade certified.
In addition, Patagonia has available to its employees a volunteer programme that allows any employee to take up to two months leave to go and volunteer at an organisation of their choice. During that time, the employee continues to receive their normal salary and is entitled to all benefits, just as if they were working.
From a small object stuck in rocks, to a big sustainable brand. This has been the path of Patagonia, which is linked to outdoor sports that do not require a motor. Even because all that matters is having a greater connection with the planet and nature.
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