Man rock climbing in Scotland
(Photo: Courtesy Michael Cassidy/Patagonia)

Patagonia Has the Best Reputation of Any Business in America, Poll Shows

The outdoor apparel brand was ranked number one against giants such as Amazon, Apple, and Ford

Courtesy Michael Cassidy/Patagonia

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Out of 100 of the most visible brands in America, Patagonia ranked number one for reputation, according to an annual survey by Axios and Harris Poll.

More than 16,000 Americans were asked to list “companies that either excel or falter in society,” as part of the survey. From that, pollsters curated a list of 100 companies, which were then scored across nine reputation-gauging attributes including trajectory, vision, culture, and trust.

As Patagonia celebrates 50 years in business, the scoring marks the brand’s second time in first place; it also rose to the top in 2021 but dropped to third in 2022. Compared to the other mega corporations on the list with thousands of employees (Costco has over 200,000 employees in the U.S. alone), Patagonia is tiny, employing around 1,000 people. Patagonia is immediately followed by Costco, John Deere, and Trader Joe’s. The bottom end of the list includes Bitcoin, Meta, Twitter, and in spot 100, The Trump Organization. Other notable companies on the list include Apple, Amazon, Ford, Nike, Adidas, and Google.

Why the Patagonia Clothing Company Outranks All Others

On the Axios Today podcast discussing the results, journalist Margaret Talev credits Patagonia’s notoriety to the brand’s unwavering commitment to environmental efforts, with a recent example being last year’s restructuring. Founder Yvon Chouinard gave control to two private entities: a trust that owns Patagonia’s voting stock and an environmental nonprofit called Holdfast Collective, which receives all earnings not reinvested in the business—roughly $100 million a year. The combination of Patagonia’s consistency, dedication to its values, and doubling down on its commitment to various causes resulted in the positive public perception, she says.

“Patagonia is a company ideologically that has a center-left appeal, and yet you have many Republicans who like Patagonia as well,” Talev says. “What consumers have been saying consistently in this survey is that they like a company that knows what it stands for and isn’t just chasing consumers with marketing employees, but that sticks to its message.”

A Strong Reputation Means Everything to Brand Prosperity

Reputation has always been a strong indicator of success in the world of business. You’re not going to recommend a company that has poor quality or service, nor will you go back for more business. And on the flip side, brands foster loyalty through quality and reliability. But companies face a far less forgiving landscape than in the pre-Yelp era. Factors like ethics, values, and leadership can either boost or threaten its future also, says Daniel Powell, managing attorney at Minc LLC, a firm that provides online reputation management.

He adds that companies can now receive blowback from customers for making cultural or political statements—or saying nothing at all. And a CEO with harassment allegations can be just as detrimental to a company’s bottom line as hundreds of bad reviews.

According to Weber Shandwick and KRC Research’s State of Corporate Reputation in 2020, global executives attribute 63 percent of their company’s market value to its overall reputation. The research also reveals that 91 percent of executives care about their company’s reputation.

The equation is simple: “The better your reputation is, the more marketplace interactions you’re going to have,” Powell says. “When your reputation is bad, you won’t even get the chance for that interaction.” Patagonia’s earnings are private, but CEO Ryan Gellert disclosed to Reuters earlier this year that company revenues are around $1.5 billion annually.

In a time when public opinion can shift overnight, Powell says he advises clients to “jealously safeguard their reputation.” That includes monitoring any red flags and pumping up any good press. “Everyone is going to get hit with something negative,” Powell says. “One negative review can have catastrophic cascading consequences if you have nothing to counteract it.”

The Patagonia Lawsuits: Taking a Brand Stand

And Patagonia has recently had to play defense. This spring, the company filed a lawsuit in California court against Nordstrom for allegedly selling thousands of counterfeit goods. Up until this year, the department store was an authorized dealer. Also recently, Patagonia and Gap settled a lawsuit after the outdoor outfitter alleged that Gap had deliberately copied its iconic Snap-T fleece pullover design.

Besides protecting itself, the brand also fields an aggressive offense. The company puts a lot of energy toward environmental and human rights activism, and despite getting involved in politics—which many brands still avoid—it still comes out on top. Some of its most buzzworthy moments include suing President Trump in 2017 over the reduction of two national monuments. At one point, the Patagonia’s homepage read, “The President Stole Your Land.” Then it endorsed two political candidates. Patagonia went viral again in 2020 when someone discovered a hidden message on the underside of a tag: “Vote the assholes out.” It even publicly entered the abortion rights fight in 2022, agreeing to pay bail for employees arrested in abortion protests and denouncing the Texas abortion ban.

The company’s success is the result of a complicated and hard-won combination of action, service, and renowned consumer goods. The number one placement on the Axios and Harris Poll is a resounding indication that it’s working.

Lead Photo: Courtesy Michael Cassidy/Patagonia

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