Thanks to my compadre, Brian Moss (@theBMOSS), for prompting this post. A fellow traveller on the rather scarcely populated highway of people who combine holding an MBA with a passion for design and sustainability, he quite rightly pointed out a glaring omission in my pantheon of champions of new-world sustainability: Patagonia.
Let’s put that right straight away, with reference to the ad they ran in the New York Times, and which constituted their whole homepage, last November – on Black Friday, no less, the single biggest shopping day of the year in the US…
Isn’t that just the most utterly brilliant thing?!
How many companies can you think of who would deliberately forego the year’s biggest sales opportunity? Patagonia uses that very day as the ultimate platform to tell their story, to bring their values and purpose as a company into sharpest possible relief, and to encourage customers to join them in their mission.
How many companies can you think of who put talk of recycling last in their hierarchy of action on sustainability? Patagonia understands that, rather than just “giving something back” real sustainability demands facing up to what you take in the first place. So recycling comes after just not buying the jacket at all, and making sure that anyone who does gets something that’s built to last and easily repairable – a product designed from the ground up for longevity, not obsolescence.
How many companies can you think of who, in attempting to stake out a thought leadership position, would actually go out of their way to tell you all the ways in which the manufacture and distribution of their product has a negative impact on the environment? Instead of waxing lyrical about all their achievements, Patagonia is radically honest about how far they (and of course we) still have to go to reach sustainability.
How many companies can you think of that truly live up to their supposedly treasured values – even when it hurts them commercially? Of course, Patagonia doesn’t see it that way because they’re playing a completely different game – not who tops the sales charts for the next quarter, but who will still be in business in 100 years from now. They’re not interested in that impulse buy from that disinterested customer; they’re looking to build a lifelong relationship with people who share their beliefs.
In short, they’re looking to build a sustainable brand.