Living for the moment
Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia: 'I don’t like to think of myself as a businessman. I’ve made no secret that I hold a fairly skeptical view of the business world. That said, Patagonia, the company my wife and I founded four decades ago, has grown up to — by global standards — a medium-size business. Patagonia's founder still loves to blaze a trail. He takes copious time off, lets employees manage themselves, and tells customers not to buy his products. Patagonia has donated one percent of its sales to grassroots environmental organizations. They helped initiate the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an organization of companies that produces more than a third of the clothing and footwear on the planet. In a very short time, the Coalition has launched an index of social and environmental performance that designers (and eventually consumers) can use to make better decisions when developing products or choosing materials. In 2012 they became one of California’s first B Corps (benefit corporations).
"I'm kind of like a samurai," says Yvon Chouinard, founder of outdoor-apparel maker Patagonia during an interview with Fast Company Magazine. "They say if you want to be a samurai, you can't be afraid of dying, and as soon as you flinch, you get your head cut off. I'm not afraid of losing this business." Ever since Chouinard began forging mountain-climbing pitons in 1957 and selling them out of his car, he has defined his business's bottom line as something other than pure profit. At first, it was a way to fund his "dirtbag" climbing lifestyle and equip himself and his friends with gear. As Patagonia grew, so did a realization that everything his business did had an effect — mostly negative — on the environment. Today, Chouinard, 70, defines the company's mission in purely eco-driven terms: "to use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis."