Reflections of a Green Business Pioneer, an Oppenheim Lecture by Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia
Held Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at UCLA Anderson School of Management's Korn Convocation Hall.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Most people think “green businesses” provide or support the use of alternative energy or energy efficient products. Yvon Chouinard will recount how Patagonia grew from a retail climbing equipment business operating out of the back of his van to a successful global business based on sustainability and social responsibility principles. Chouinard and Patagonia’s story demonstrates how any business can be a green, sustainable and socially responsible business.
Watch videos of the lecture:
Listen to a podcast of the full lecture here.
Patagonia is guided by the principles of environmental sustainability and social responsibility. “Patagonia’s definition of quality includes a mandate for building products and working with processes that cause the least harm to the environment. The company evaluates raw materials, invests in innovative technologies, rigorously polices waste and use a portion of our sales to support groups working to make a real difference. We acknowledge that the wild world we love best is disappearing. That is why those of us who work here share a strong commitment to protecting undomesticated lands and waters. We believe in using business to inspire solutions to the environmental crisis “
“At its core, Patagonia’s effort toward corporate social responsibility is about the company’s relationship with the people who work in the factories that make our clothing and gear, and what we have done, and are trying to do, to ensure that Patagonia products are produced under safe, fair, legal and humane working conditions.” (Quotes from the Patagonia website, www.patagonia.com )
About the Lecturer:
Yvon Chouinard is founder and owner of Patagonia, Inc., based in Ventura, California. He began in business by designing, manufacturing, and distributing rock climbing equipment in the late 1950’s. His tinkering led to an improved ice axe that facilitated the French ice climbing technique and is the basis for modern ice axe design. In 1964 he produced his first mail order catalog, a one page mimeographed sheet containing advice not to expect fast delivery during climbing season. Business grew slowly until 1972 when Yvon added rugby shirts to his catalog and his clothing business took off.
In the late 1980’s, Patagonia’s success was such that Yvon considered early retirement. In some ways he would have preferred to disappear into the South Pacific with his fly rod and surfboard. However, he decided to continue directing Patagonia’s course, in part to use the company to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. As part of this goal, Patagonia instituted an Earth Tax, pledging 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
Yvon spends much of his time in the outdoors and serving on the boards of numerous environmental groups. “I work every day of my life. My job is to be the ‘outside’ man, studying lifestyles around the world, coming up with ideas for new products, new market trends, seeing that Patagonia stays relevant in a rapidly changing world.”
About 1% for the Planet:
In 2001, Chouinard, along with Craig Mathews, owner of West Yellowstone’s Blue Ribbon Flies, started One Percent For The Planet (www.onepercentfortheplanet.org). This is now an alliance of over one thousand businesses worldwide that focus on sustainability and contribute at least 1 percent of their net annual sales to groups on a list of researched and approved environmental organizations.