#1 Keep yourself in check
As founder Yvon Chouinard highlights in his Patagonia-focused autobiography ‘Let My People Go Surfing’, there has always been one clear raison d’être for the brand; “Make the best product”. Patagonia strip back their design principles to a checklist of ten, deducting points from a product that falls short in any of the categories. With functionality, durability and sustainability at its core, quality follows suit. Climbing Yosemite in an English cotton rugby shirt might sound out-of-place, but what works, works.
#2 Lose the expiry date
Patagonia is a pioneer of product longevity. Designing products that outlive the customer is their first and most important hurdle, but wear and tear is inevitable, especially when surfing Nazaré or free climbing El Capitan. Which is the exact reason for Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee; where customers can return a product to the store for a repair, replacement or refund. Such a pledge shows their self-assurance in their own design process, but also their unbreakable stance against meaningless over-production.
#3 If it’s broke, fix it
Acceptance is the first step to moving forward, and Patagonia are the first to admit that they’re not perfect. In the late 60’s, Chouinard had cobbled together a range of globally popular iron climbing pitons, bringing the company levels of profitability they had never experienced. He soon understood that these same tools were often left in rock faces, sometimes so other climbers could use them, but mainly because the metal rods tended to break when removed. And if they didn’t, they would inevitably leave a lasting hole. Patagonia immediately ceased production of these arguably “successful” iron tools, and redesigned aluminium chockstones which boasted the exact same functionality as the originals, without the damaging side effects. Planet over profit, people.
#4 Keep an eye on the details
One of their more recent testimonies to the environment involves Patagonia’s meticulous focus on the details. In business to save our home planet, Jennifer Patrick, the brand’s global head of packaging and branding, saw customers relentlessly flicking through endless hangtags on products in-store. Understanding the limitless potential for digital assets and product points on packaging, Patrick swapped out the heaps of plastic and paper product inserts with a single QR code. By scanning the code, shoppers have access to a designated landing page with the precise product details immediately available. Though this initiative only started up earlier this year, Patagonia have already reduced global paper usage by over 78,000kg. Little things make big things happen.
#5 Put purpose first
The earth is now Patagonia’s only shareholder. Chouinard realised that although they were trying their very best to address the environmental crisis, Patagonia were still falling short. Big change was needed. Option one was to sell the company and donate all the money, but who could guarantee that the new owner would continue leading the company with Patagonia’s unparalleled diligence? Option two was to take the company public, but even the most responsible public companies are forced into taking shortcuts to appease shareholders. Neither option checked out. But Chouinard has decades of experience between rocks and hard places. So, in true voyager fashion, the brand went off-piste to create a third path. Opting to “go purpose” over going public, Patagonia donated 98% of the company’s stock to Holdfast Collective; a non-profit pledging to use every dollar received to fight the environmental crisis, protect nature and biodiversity, and support thriving communities, as quickly as possible.
The climate crisis has redefined what it means to be a successful business, and in equal measure challenged the way in which we consume goods. As consumers increasingly look for corporate transparency, it’s never been more crucial for brands to ask themselves one question: what can we be doing better?
If you’re ready to change your own way of doing things, why not get in touch with our Strategy team here.