Patagonia Enjoys Unique Benefits of Its Authentic Sustainability Ethos

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Patagonia was doing “sustainable” before most companies even knew what that meant. And now the brand is benefiting from an interesting, maybe even unique, sort of synergy that has resulted from its long and clearly authentic embrace of an environmental ethos.

In short, Patagonia lately has been urging its outdoorsy customers to “buy less” and question whether they really need that several-hundred-dollar new parka, even from Patagonia. The messaging has been suggesting they should just repair and keep using the $700 Patagonia parkas they already have instead of buying new ones.

Result? Patagonia’s fans and customers are both joining the brand’s sustainability cause—and buying more new parkas from Patagonia. Sales increased almost one-third to $543 million last year, which included about nine months of the “Buy Less” marketing, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. And owner and founder Yvon Chouinard has estimated that revenue will continue to grow by about 15 percent a year—no mean achievement for a mature brand.[more]

Patagonia’s ad asking customers to “Don’t Buy This Jacket” also implored them to sign a sustainability pledge about “buying used when I can.” Many people did both, the magazine noted. And clearly one reason is that Patagonia’s environmental ethos not only is sincere and authentic but also effective.

The brand’s approach extends beyond its relatively new “Buy Less” positioning. Chouinard, for instance, recently told Inc. that the company is “producing a series of videos to show customers how to fix things themselves. We’re even going to make a little sewing kit. We want people to feel like that [Patagonia] jacket is something they’re going to have the rest of their lives. And if it does get worn out, send it back to us, and we’ll use it for something else. We want to close that loop between consuming and discarding.”

Also, Patagonia is renowned for true-green steps such as donating 1 percent of its revenue to environmental causes, for making fleece jackets out of recycled bottles, for going out of its way to use organic cotton, and for mostly powering its headquarters near Los Angeles with solar panels.

Patagonia also is trying to extend its sustainability ethos through a new generation of startups. Earlier this year, it announced creation of a $20 million fund to invest in innovative startups in areas of sustainable food, water and energy.

The Patagonia chief is hoping to reward other entrepreneurs who agree with his mantra: “Investing in the well-being of our planet,” Chouinard told Inc., “makes good business sense.”

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