Patagonia founder donates company to combat climate change

Lara Hans, Staff Writer

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard announced Sept. 14 that he is giving away his $3 billion company to combat climate change. Chouinard and his family stated that they will be splitting the company into a specifically designed trust and non-profit to ensure that all of Patagonia’s profits are used to conserve the planet.

“Earth is now our only shareholder,” Yvon Chouinard said in a statement on the Patagonia website.

In August, the family transferred all of the company’s voting stock (2% of the overall company) into a newly established trust called the Patagonia Purpose Trust. Its purpose is to maintain the company’s missions and values and will be supervised by members of the family as well as advisors.

The other 98% of Patagonia has been given to a nonprofit organization called the Holdfast Collective, which will be the recipient of all of the company’s profits. Patagonia will remain a private, for-profit company whose proceeds will be used by the Holdfast Collective to fight climate change. An estimated $100 million in donations will be donated from Patagonia each year depending on the well-being of the business.

This step has been one of many in Patagonia’s contributions to bettering the environment. Since 1985, the company has given away 1% of its annual profits to grassroot environmental groups. This was formalized as a nonprofit organization in 2002, called “1% for the Planet.” Members of this organization donate 1% of their annual sales, and the program has led to $140 million dollars in donations for the preservation and restoration of the environment.

PHOTO: NPR

Chouinard himself is an avid nature-lover, and his company was inspired by his passion for climbing.

“I never wanted to be a businessman,” Chouinard said in the same statement. “I started as a craftsman, making climbing gear for my friends and myself, then got into apparel.”

Even after becoming a billionaire, Chouinard has continued to live a modest lifestyle. He drives a run-down Subaru, wears old clothes and does not own a cellphone or computer. Chouinard’s decision to give the company away was due to a lack of other options.

“Truth be told, there were no good options available,” Chouinard said in his statement. “So, we created our own.”

One of the other possibilities for Chouinard  would have been to sell the company and donate all of the profits, but he did not want to risk the possibility of a change in Patagonia’s values with a change in ownership. Additionally, Chouinard wanted to make sure that all of his employees around the globe stayed employed.

Another possibility for the company was to open it publicly, but Chouinard did not want outside pressures on the company to create short term gains at the cost of long-term stability. Splitting the company into a trust and non-profit organization was the only way that Chouinard and his family could achieve all of their goals for the company and environment.

“Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth,” Chouinard said in his statement.