Patagonia Responds to Climate Change

Patagonia continuously improves every aspect in their production, sales, and distribution to protect the environment.


Patagonia Ad in New York Times, Nov 2011

While every other company spends their biggest marketing dollar of the year to increase sales on Black Friday, this company makes a rather confusing appearance in New York Times that reads ‘don’t buy this jacket.’

Patagonia goes way beyond our imagination in their efforts to leave an inhabitable world for our children. They tell consumers not to buy a new Patagonia that they don’t need. They are confident that Patagonia jackets are exceptionally durable over 10 years. They encourage people to repair Patagonia clothing if it’s torn. They ask consumers to send worn-out Patagonia back for recycling. They raise awareness for preserving the environment. They support environment-friendly activities. They don’t stop innovating their ways of protecting the environment.


Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to

inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

– Patagonia’s Mission Statement


Acknowledging Patagonia is part of the problem

Patagonia, headquartered in California, starts to see the climate change with their eyes: thousand year-old Sequoias succumbing to L.A. smog, the thinning of life in tide pools and kelp beds, the rampant development of the land along the coast. They also come to realize dedicated people make small movements to protect the habitat. In response, they take their first step to acknowledge that they make products using fossil fuels, build factories, consume a huge amount of water and electricity, ship products in boxes and plastic bags, emit carbon dioxide driving cars and flying airplanes.


Patagonia creates a movement

Among different fabric fibers, Patagonia chose cotton to have the least environmental impact as it was made from a plant. Not just any cotton. Organically grown cotton. Their jackets are made out of cotton grown without harmful chemicals for years, which even has higher quality than conventionally grown cotton. To ensure Patagonia cotton is organic as defined by the USDA’s National Organic Program, they require certificates issued by a third party. Patagonia starts a movement to protect farmers who produces cotton organically and role model for different companies in the supply chain.

Patagonia also makes an effort to use 100% recycled down and feathers from cushions, bedding, and even some of their own reclaimed products which offer identical performance benefits to virgin down. The company tries their best to ensure down-bearing birds are not mistreated by only using 100% Traceable Down that can be traced back to birds that were never force-fed or live-plucked. To provide other companies with a similar path forward, Patagonia has convinced NSF International to participate in establishing Traceable Down Standards.

Patagonia takes a cautious, environment-friendly approach in managing their buildings from factories, warehouses to retail stores. When opening up new store locations, they mostly use existing buildings instead of constructing new ones. Solar panels are implemented in their facilities, air-conditioners are not installed, and LED lights are installed. Sinks and toilets are built to preserve water, and used water is filtered before going into drains.


Patagonia takes a stand to raise social awareness

Patagonia promotes its corporate social responsibility through many different channels to raise awareness to the broader audience. On top of publishing its efforts to preserve the habitat, Patagonia runs campaigns both internally and externally. Patagonia employees volunteer to take part in many different environmental initiatives and run impact programs to invite people from outside to participate in baby steps to support the environment.


Yet, Patagonia has a long journey ahead

While Patagonia has gone out of their way to not cause any unnecessary harm in the materials that they use, the production of their shell jackets largely contribute to global warming. The nylon and polyester polymers that are used to craft the clothing is neither infinite nor sustainable and the durable water repellent finish applied is potentially toxic to the environment. Patagonia is still left with the task to continuously search for alternative materials and technology.

It’s mind-blowing to see Patagonia making all the effort to improve every single aspect of their production, sales, and distribution to preserve the environment. At the same time, it’s surprising to see that much hasn’t changed about global warming overall and there is endless room for improvement. Patagonia has a huge presence to raise awareness of the consumers, but not so much of other companies in the industry. Perhaps their next step should be to have the consumers influence other apparel companies to join the movement.


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[1] Patagonia

[2] Patagonia Environmental & Social Initiatives

[3] Outside: Patagonia’s New Study Finds Fleece Jackets Are a Serious Pollutant

[4] Climate Change in 2016: Implications for Business, (Henderson, Reinert, Dekhtyar, Mgidal) Harvard Business School, 2016

[5] Huffington Post: Why Fashion Should be on the Climate Change Agenda



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Student comments on Patagonia Responds to Climate Change

  1. Interesting. It’s disheartening to hear other players aren’t following suit. Of all companies, I would expect ones that promote an outdoor lifestyle to be leading the way.

    Regarding their Black Friday ad, I know REI does something similar. They actually close their doors and encourage people to get outside – a bold move for a retailer.

  2. I wonder if Patagonia would be able to employ these same methods if they were a publicly traded company. My guess is that the add would not have gone over so well. While, I agree with the message they are trying to promote, I think they may be going too far with the “Don’t buy this jacket” advertisement. Instead, they could offer rebates for people who return old jackets to be recycled. This could help drive sustainable practices without neglecting revenue.

  3. Lane, I like your piece. You present good points on Patagonia’s efforts to curb climate change and how it’s part of the problem. However, thinking out loud, where does it stop with expectations of companies helping with climate change? Don’t almost all companies contribute to climate change, unless you were in the tree growing business (but cutting them takes CO2)? Doesn’t capitalism in its entirety promote consumption? Are human desires to consume at fault?

  4. Although public consensus is on the side of climate change as a critical global issue, Patagonia is one of the first private entities I’ve seento raise their hand as being culprits in the problem and presenting tangible solutions to the problem that potentially conflict with their bottom line. It is refreshing to see Patagonia as a leader in this space, but my question is – is the problem inevitable? Will Patagonia become ‘unprofitable’ and damage it’s business prospects in the competitive outdoor retail segment by taking a socially conscious stand that it’s peers don’t? I would like to see the company market its products as superior because of these efforts, as I think to truly be sustainable my view is that they have to find underlying business reasons (which I am sure exist). Great insights!

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