Commerce, Conscience & Conservation


Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, with its chief executive, Rose Marcario, in the tin shed where he once forged and hammered metal. The outdoor-clothing company has mixed commerce and activism since the early 1970s. Credit Laure Joliet for The New York Times

Since the early days of this platform we have linked to stories about this company many times, and its founder in particular is in our pantheon of role models. During these seven years we have also studiously avoided linking to stories involving politics, other than highlighting activism that holds public officials accountable. This story below borders on  too much politics, but I find the company’s position not only acceptable, but as usual about this company, aspirational. Thanks to David Gelles for this story about how Patagonia has supported grass-roots environmental activists for decades and how it is suing the president in a bid to protect Bears Ears National Monument:


Patagonia employees at the Ventura, Calif., headquarters, where there are picnic tables in the parking lot, on-site day care and easy access to the beach.CreditLaure Joliet for The New York Times

VENTURA, Calif. — The offices of Patagonia occupy a low-slung complex of stucco buildings in this sleepy beachside town in Southern California. There are solar panels and picnic tables in the parking lot, day care with a jungle gym by the main lobby and easy access to the beach, where employees surf during lunch break. It is a corporate Eden of sorts, where idealistic Californians run a privately held company that sells about $1 billion of puffy down jackets and organic cotton jeans each year.

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 7.06.08 AMBut on an unseasonably hot and windy Monday morning in early December, Patagonia headquarters were transformed into something that quickly resembled a war room. There were emergency conference calls with Washington lawyers. Court filings were prepared. Web designers remade the company’s home page.

It wasn’t a business crisis that had mobilized the company, however. It was politics.

Hours earlier, President Trump had announced plans to sharply reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah. Bears Ears, an expanse of red-rock canyons rich with archaeologically significant sites, would be slashed in size by 85 percent, more than one million acres. Another monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, would be reduced by half.

Mr. Trump said the decision was about reducing federal overreach. “Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington,” he said. “And guess what. They’re wrong.”

Yet to the tribal groups and conservationists who had been monitoring the situation, including Patagonia, the decision realized some of their worst fears: that the Trump administration would be waging an assault on public lands, and potentially opening up protected areas to drilling and mining.

Patagonia was as ready for this moment as any company could be. For more than 45 years, the company has mixed business and politics to a degree unusual in corporate America. While companies are expected to weigh in on everything from gun control to transgender rights these days — and many do so uncomfortably — Patagonia has been unapologetically political since the 1970s.

It bills itself “the Activist Company” and publicly advocates for environmental protection, fair trade and stricter labor standards. It supports thousands of grass-roots environmental activists, and has been involved with Bears Ears since 2012. But until December, Patagonia had never tangled with a president.
That Monday morning, about 50 Patagonia employees gathered in a conference room to watch Mr. Trump’s speech. The mood was somber. Then, within an hour of the president’s remarks, Patagonia updated the home page of its website. Instead of promotional images advertising colorful products, there was a stark message against a black background: “The President Stole Your Land.”…
Read the whole story here.

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