Created Sustainable business
Yvon Chouinard could have taken Patagonia public a long time ago. Instead, the former blacksmith and original climbing dirtbag of Yosemite’s Camp 4, now 73, has kept his company private so he could pursue his twin goals of innovation and environmental sustainability without having to answer to shareholders. Along the way, he realigned the outdoor industry every decade or so. When, in 1996, Chouinard began demanding that only organic cotton be used in his products, he created the organic-cotton industry. Ditto for recycled polyester. A few years ago, Patagonia redesigned the wetsuit, adding merino wool, making the neoprene stretchier and warmer, and setting a standard that other companies are still chasing. Chouinard is a groundbreaking philanthropist as well, founding 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that give 1 percent of their sales to environmental causes. Patagonia’s Freedom to Roam initiative, a coalition of environmental groups and businesses attempting to preserve wildlife corridors, was absorbed this year by the World Wildlife Fund. Chouinard even does volunteer work for corporate America—in 2009, Wal-Mart asked his advice on how to green its supply system.
By the Numbers 1,450: companies in 1% for the Planet (Outside is a media partner);
$39 million: amount Patagonia has given to environmental organizations since 1983
Second Opinion “When you actually use the products you make, it’s not hard to appreciate the environments you use them in,” says Peter Metcalf, CEO of Black Diamond Equipment. “Yvon has been a real catalyst in pushing the outdoor industry to adopt a green mentality. In fact, he’s the catalyst for the entire outdoor-apparel industry in the U.S.”