Patagonia Essay

This essay has a total of 2467 words and 13 pages.


Patagonia’s mission statement is, “To use business to inspire and implement solutions to
environmental crisis”. Patagonia is a clothing company that’s focus is on selling
environmentally safe outdoor apparel. This papers focus is on the history of Patagonia
their environmental marketing strategies and their competition. There has also been some
outside research done to see what the public’s perception of Patagonia is.

Patagonia's History
In 1957 a young climber named Yvon Chouinard could not find pitons (a form of climbing
protection) that he liked. So he began to make his own climbing gear. Chouinard was a
self-educated blacksmith. He took his knowledge and began to build his own pitons. Of the
pitons he made, Chouinard would keep what he needed and started selling the rest to his
friends. Shortly after, Chouinard began building carabiners in addition to his production
of the pitons. Up until this point, he had been working out of his parents' back yard and
selling equipment out of his car. He moved his business in 1959 to an industrial yard in
Burbank California and again in 1966 to a tin shed behind an abandoned slaughterhouse in
Ventura California. In 1966, Tom Frost was recruited to help make the transition from
handmade to machine made products. Chouinard and Frost founded Chouinard Equipment, Ltd.
"Everything about the operations focused on building the best quality climbing gear in the
world…The companies genuine and relentless pursuit of quality was matched by its
reputation for it (Defining Quality, 2)." Chouinard and Frost remained partners until
1975. During this time the two managed to redesign, hence improve, almost every tool used
on a climber's rack. Their production also tried to minimize the use of materials.

By 1970 Chouinard Equipment was the largest supplier of climbing equipment in the United
States. Although this seemed positive from a business standpoint, Chouinard and Frost
realized that they were contributing to environmental deterioration. Pitons require
repetitive hammering for placement and removal. Because rock climbing was becoming popular
the amount of destruction increased. Chouinard and Frost took a stand and decided to
discontinue their production of pitons. This decision initiated a blind devotion that
ultimately led to Patagonia's Statement of Purpose: To use business to inspire and
implement solutions to environmental crisis.

An environmental safe alternative to pitons was found in aluminum chocks. As before
Chouinard Equipment designed and produced their own version of the chocks. Sales were slow
until their showing in the first Chouinard Equipment catalog in 1972. The first pages of
the catalog featured "A Word…" from the owners on the environmental hazards of pitons. The
ethical stand taken by Chouinard Equipment dramatically effected the climbing community.
Things began to change for the better. Within just a few months of the release of their
first catalog, piton sales were severely stunted.

In 1973 Patagonia the company was incorporated. Around this same time, Chouinard became
interested in the profit potential of soft goods. He pursued his interest by introducing
rugby shirts into their line. Frost and others opposed this decision and left the
partnership in 1975.

In the mid-seventies clothing was introduced under the name 'Patagonia'. Shortly after, in
1979, Patagonia Clothing Corporation was established. Patagonia was incorporated in 1984.
Patagonia followed Chouinard's original intentions of developing goods "that could easily
be described as ridiculously overbuilt (Defining Quality, 5)." Chouinard began technical
product development in 1973, which continued and intensified under the Patagonia name.
Patagonia continually improved on the amount of environmental impact as well as the
quality of their materials. Pile lead to Bunting, which lead to Synchilla, which
eventually changed the industry. Patagonia also introduced polypropylene underwear, which
was replaced by Capilene in 1985.

Although competition became fierce, Patagonia's attention to the details and construction
of their products kept them ahead of the others. "Throughout the years there has always
been one constant in Patagonia's design and philosophy- a sense that there is in the
products, or should be, more than meets the eye. Quality. Superb functionality.
Environmental concern. A Killer warranty and service to match” (Defining Quality, 9).

Patagonia's Environmental History
As you can see in the above text, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard has always put the
environment first in his business plans. But Patagonia has done more for the environment
then first meets the eye.

In 1973 a young activist contacted Patagonia with concerns of the polluted Ventura River.
Soon after Patagonia started making contributions to the "Friends of the Ventura River."
This marked Patagonia's first step towards donating to environmental causes. Over the next
several years as Patagonia gained further success, Chouinard continued to increase
donations to environmental groups. In 1985 Patagonia initiated a "Tithing Program", which
made a commitment to donate ten percent of profits to various environmental group. They
could now "focus on the bottom line with pride-knowing that if they made money, others
would as well (Defining Quality, 24)." Between 1985 and 1998 alone, Patagonia has given
over $13million to environmental groups.

The "Tithing Program" started by Patagonia was gaining such strong media recognition that
many other companies began to initiate similar programs. Although this seemed like a step
towards the right direction, Patagonia found one major flaw. If profits were low, high
volume companies committed to donating 10% often ended up giving very little to
environmental groups. After this discovery, Patagonia decided to "up the ante." Patagonia
would now give one percent of sales revenue or 10% of profits, whichever be greater, to
these organizations.

Later in the1980's Patagonia began to take their environmental values and focus inward.
Patagonia started to look at their production process with hopes of improvement. They
started by drastically reducing the waste in their facilities. In 1989 the Salt Lake City
Patagonia outlet set up a recycling station in their parking lot. This was the first
public recycling station in the state of Utah. Patagonia also changed the way they built
their facilities. For example, they switched from using fir to recycled wood and steel for
trims. They now use paint that contains low amounts of volatile organic compounds, and
they have installed many devices used to store and conserve energy.

Patagonia then took the next step by looking at the materials used in the production of
their products. They found that they could reduce the effects of their synthetic fibers.
In 1993, Patagonia introduced PCR Synchilla, which was made from recycled plastic bottles.
This shifted consumption away from virgin crude oil that was previously used to make these
garments. Once again, Patagonia became an industry leader as many other companies
converted to PCR Synchilla.

Next, Patagonia found that the conventionally grown cotton being used in their garments
was grown with large amounts of pesticides. So, in 1996, Patagonia started to only use one
hundred percent organic cotton. Also in 1996, Patagonia hosted an environmental conference
for their suppliers. At this conference Patagonia discussed their focus on quality and
their impact on the environment. Patagonia looked to transform the way its suppliers did
business, and they succeeded.

Patagonia has also started an internship program for its employees. This internship allows
the employee to leave their job and work with an environmental group of their choice. The
internship lasts for two months, in which the employee still receives their Patagonia

Patagonia has always been very concerned about the environment. Their marketing strategies
show how concerned they are with not harming the environment in any way. Patagonia will
not participate in some types of promotion because of the effects on the environment, such
as billboards. Patagonia does a large portion of their sales through catalogs. Four
Catalogs are produced each year; all of them are printed on recycled paper. Inside the
catalog clothing made from recycled products are easily identified with a picture of the
product that was recycled.

Executives at Patagonia feel their “green marketing” is doing a great job. They feel
Patagonia is doing its part to keep the environment clean. There is also a feeling that
their marketing department is doing a good job in letting the consumer know about their
products and how they are made. Through outside research it has been found that the
general public is not aware of the efforts Patagonia has taken to save the environment.
Furthermore a majority of shoppers who were polled at the Salt Lake City Patagonia outlet
Continues for 7 more pages >>