You know its going to be a good day when it starts out at Patagonia headquarters with an introduction by the Head of Culture and Patagonia Frisbee Ambassador, "Chipper Bro." Patagonia has long been a brand that has inspired our team at Life Elements with their quality, unwavering commitment to the environment and their ability to build a culture that has always remained true to it's core mission to: "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis."
We were fortunate to join a group of local business leaders that spent the day at the Patagonia campus touring their Ventura headquarters, listening to an incredible roster of speakers and discussing a variety of issues and best practices related to culture, product responsibility, environmental strategy and corporate transparency. The tour was put together by our own San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce and part of their THINK GREEN Experience. Here are a few nuggets of wonderful wisdom:
Quality is an environmental story
Patagonia made advertising headlines several years ago with their bold campaign that effectively tells you: "Don't buy our stuff." During the 2011 holiday season Patagonia published a full-page ad in the New York Times with the headline “DON'T BUY THIS JACKET.” Following that, annual sales grew almost 40% in the next two years. This message really resonates with us since we have always encouraged people to repurpose our wipes and NOT throw them away. The idea is that if you can make a quality product that has durability, it will last a long time and provide far more intrinsic and economic value to the customer than something that falls apart. Patagonia strives to make the best product so you can consume less and consume better. Not only that, but like the cream white patina on our beloved '66 Ford, Lola Mae, your perfectly good used clothing (aka "Worn Wear") has a story that makes it even more valuable. So UpCycle, DownCycle (Patagonia reprocesses some old garments and scraps into carpet padding or filling material) or ReCycle...just don't throw your stuff away.
Our host and tour leader for the day was Nellie Cohen, an amazing women who shepherds the Worn Wear program. The Patagonia facility in Reno, Nevada is the largest apparel repair facility in North America and provides approximately 30,000 repairs in a year. This spring they sent some of their talented repair technicians on a road trip in a refurbished biodiesel truck from California to New York doing free clothing repairs and leading classes on how to fix your own gear. This isn't a marketing stunt; it is something that represents the core values of Patagonia. According to research conducted by WRAP, a UK research group, the act of extending the average life of clothing by 9 months would save the equivalent of $7.5 billion in resources used to supply, launder and dispose of clothing. So, by simply making better stuff and fixing it, rather than throwing it away, we will have a far greater savings across the dimensions of carbon, water and waste footprints, than any other conservation or recycling effort.
Learning Along The Way
Patagonia freely admits they aren't perfect. As founder Yvon Chouinard states: "Patagonia will never be completely socially responsible, nor at any time soon be able to make a totally sustainable (“cradle-to-cradle” recyclable) product. We have a long way to go and we don’t have a map – but we do have a way to read the terrain and to take the next step, and then the next." In that imperfection, Patagonia has not been free from controversy, but their approach comes right out of a Marketing 101 textbook. Like the quote above, their approach is to put their skeletons out into the public in order to provide transparency as well as giving them control of the conversation.
In the end, "Without a healthy planet there are no shareholders, no customers, and no employees."
Like Patagonia, we are trying in a very small way to make a quality product that is healthy for people and for our planet. We truly appreciate your support and comments. Let us know what you think.