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Drive growth while keeping environmental issues in mind, and drive the message that sustainable activities can,

Question Description

Since its founding in 1973 as an outdoor apparel company, Patagonia was known for creativity and innovative approaches to many environmental issues. Yvon Chouinard, who has lead the company ever since, managed to steer the company through different periods of demand fluctuations coupled with different pressures , leading to continuous growth and brand recognition. The main challenges that the company was facing few years ago was the drive for growth against a backdrop of pressures related to the way their materials (rubber, neoprene, etc.) were obtained and the environmental impacts of these practices. Here is the OIIC for Patagonia as I see it thru background readings and our course materials:

Objective (summarized in their updated mission statement in December 2018):

“Patagonia is in business to save our home planet, and will be investing more in solutions and advocacy around three key areas: agriculture, politics, and protected lands”.

Issue:

The main issue Patagonia faced was ensuring business growth and healthy financial returns while maintaining their purpose towards the environment, and ensuring their business activities have a reduced impact on the environment, especially in critically endangered areas like rain forests.

Insight:

Main insight was “merging” the business needs (growth, revenues) with the end use of their products (outdoors, the environment). You are usually in Patagonia’s outfits outdoors, in nature, and you probably care enough about it for your own utility and enjoyment (More about it in the “Organizing Ideas” section below).

Challenge:

Drive growth while keeping environmental issues in mind, and drive the message that sustainable activities can, and will, help any producer grow without damaging their environment.

Organizing Ideas:

The above insights and challenges were behind many of the organizing ideas and initiatives that the company followed over the past decade or so, and here are some of them:

 Urging customers to fix their old gear and clothes rather than replacing them with new products and further damaging the environment. Apart from Chouinard’s bragging of wearing the same jacket for many years, they had initiatives like their camper “Delia”, which crisscrossed the U.S in 2015 repairing outdoor gear and selling used products.

 Advertisement campaigns that further emphasized these ideas, with lines like “Don’t Buy

This Jacket” spread all over them.

 Focus on Fair Trade activities for most of their products.

 “Worn Wear” campaign to further emphasize the relation between the brand and their

customers, and driving home the quality of their product (hence no need to buy new

products), which obviously served not only as an environmental, but also a brilliant

marketing and brand strengthening exercise.

 Featuring actual “regular” customers in their ads, further emphasizing the human side of

their message.

 Increasingly featuring, and taking part, in political campaigns, many of them led by wellknown

activists like Naomi Klein and others.

For me, creativity in Patagonia’s example show how simple ideas can help grow businesses if they

are backed by string believers, pronounced loud enough and pursued tirelessly. Double-digit growth

over the past years is a further proof that such approaches can lead to a healthy and profitable

business.

 

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