.@Patagonia: benefiting the future and the brand

In November last year, lots of people appreciated what outdoor clothing brand Patagonia did during Black Friday: they encouraged people NOT to buy clothes [PDF link]. Yes, that’s right, they’re an apparel retailer who advocated that people think twice about procuring their product. It was a brave marketing move indeed.

Today I read that they weren’t all talk. Last week, California officially allowed companies to register for ‘benefit corporation‘ status, which means companies that are legally required to create a material positive impact on society. Patagonia duly became one of the first companies in the state to do so. Now that’s the meaning of walking the talk. Well done, Patagonia.

There are 7 states in the US that allow corporates to apply for b-corp status apparently (and 4 more where it has been partially passed), but I couldn’t find any indication that such legislation exists in other parts of the world. Let me know if you can find evidence to the contrary. It’s a real pity because giving a company legal protection in order to put people before shareholders is legislation that can truly have long-reaching consequences – it can have mirror effects on all our future generations.

Interestingly, amongst the handful of Californian companies that applied for b-corp status, one is a comms agency. Well done, Thinkshift Communications.


2 thoughts on “.@Patagonia: benefiting the future and the brand

  1. Didn’t know about benefit corporation status! I think being social responsible has become a new marketing gimmick. Patagonia products are also quite expensive, and I imagine they charge a premium for the being the new age brand that they are. I wonder how much they charged for repairing jackets. In the spirit of being socially responsible, I hope it wasn’t prohibitive.

    • Divya – usually starting on a project like this is quite a big undertaking and no management would sanction it if they didn’t intend to see it through. I’m not sure exactly how much repairs cost per se at Patagonia, but I do know that they commit to paying for repairs they are responsible for via the Common Threads Initiative, more here: http://www.patagonia.com/us/common-threads/repair . Another example is Pepsi’s Refresh campaign where they fund nonprofits to the tune of millions of dollars each month: http://refresheverything.com. Last year was the first year of the project and they’ve gone into it again for year 2.

      There are obviously some brands that get into CSR as a marketing gimmick but today they don’t have a choice but to be transparent, so those numbers that do, I’d like to think, are decreasing rapidly.

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