Can Bold Stands Be Smart Business?

BY SARAH JOE

In the last few years, Patagonia Outdoor Clothing & Gear has skyrocketed in popularity as consumers seek to be more environmentally responsible with their purchases.  Yet,

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Patagonia’s Global Marketing Manager, Chris Gaggia, addresses UF students at Patagonia’s Corporate Conscience Event

Patagonia has remained unwaveringly committed to their mission statement to: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”  A former ultramarathoner and high school design teacher, Patagonia’s Global Marketing Manager for Field + Fish, Chris Gaggia, seeks to do this in his everyday life. As he addressed a full crowd of UF students, Gaggia demonstrated a passion for the outdoor industry and deep connection to the land and environmental ethos.

 

While Patagonia’s passion for global marketing and sustainability has remained constant throughout the years, what has shifted is their mindset from merely attempting to “cause

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UF students listen on to Gaggia’s presentation from the second floor of Pugh Hall.

no unnecessary harm.”  Instead, Patagonia is now moving forward with a progressive mindset of regenerative sourcing that seeks to leave the environment in a better condition than before. As a sustainable company, Patagonia has three main goals: responsibility to the planet, responsibility to their employees, and responsibility to their customers to create quality, durable products.  Patagonia’s willingness to define responsible environmental stewardship and then act on that stems from a passion to improve the lives of their consumers and their suppliers, which often includes small farms and their families.

 

Gaggia muses, “Everything we make costs the planet more than we can give back to it.”  Yet, Patagonia continues to implement innovative practices to reduce carbon emissions, whether that’s through sourcing organic cotton that uses less water and pesticides, recycling, or looking into products made with industrial hemp.  Simply put, Patagonia is in business to save the planet.

Additionally, Patagonia seeks to bring political awareness with their company policies, whether it’s through closing their stores on election day so customers can vote instead, giving back 1% of revenue to conservation, and aiding in grassroots campaigns.  

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UF students participate in a Q and A with Gaggia after the event.

Although some might argue that Patagonia is overstepping the boundary between business and politics, Gaggia vehemently disagrees. According to Gaggia, Patagonia’s involvement in advocating for certain policies is inherently rooted in Patagonia’s core values.  Consequently, Patagonia products act as a bridge to what Patagonia stands for – shared values such as family, quality, connection, and responsibility. By understanding the foundation behind policy issues, Patagonia seeks to create lasting change through the pathway of making quality products.  All of Patagonia’s forays into policy focus around the idea that all environmental crises are crises of humanity.

 

As a leading business focused on sustainability, Patagonia is in the business to inspire and implement environmental solutions as they engage with the problem by partnering with other businesses on supply chain issues and holding them accountable to fair trade practices.  While the seeds to make better environmental decisions might be small today, they will ultimately result in better long-term decisions.

However, Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability and giving back comes at a cost and

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UF students take notes on the Patagonia Event.

limited accessibility for those who don’t have the funds to pay for it.  Patagonia is often seen as an aspirational brand meant for wealthy students who can afford to go beyond fast fashion. While this means that college students with limited funds often can’t afford Patagonia gear, that doesn’t mean that students can’t be passionate about Patagonia’s values and goals.  Sustainability doesn’t start with big companies; it starts with individuals such as you and me. Whether we’re seeking to recycle or become more aware of what we eat and the impact that our habits have on the environment, we can plant small seeds that will make a difference and help achieve Patagonia’s goal in the long run.

 

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