How Anti-Consumerism is Building the Patagonia Brand

It’s no secret that Patagonia has a distinguished record of environmental philanthropy and investment. This ethical set of values was set in motion far earlier than it was for Patagonia’s competition, as the company took early bets that consumers would pay more for products made with organic cotton or Fair Trade certification – traits that are now commonplace in certain sectors of consumption. The brand’s famous “Don’t buy this jacket” ad, which appeared as a full page in the New York Times on Black Friday 2011, perhaps best sums up it’s dedication to anti-consumerism and an environmentally conscious business structure, which is apparently working; this year the brand reportedly expects to gross $600 million USD.

The obvious point to raise is that Patagonia isn’t making money just for money’s sake. It’s actively investing back into projects that simultaneously give back (to the earth and to people who enjoy the brand), and creating a rock solid following (climbing pun intended), because of this. As part of its Responsible Economy campaign Patagonia is trying second-hand-clothing sales at its shop in Portland, Oregon. Product repair and recycling is a growing part of its business model, and it recently invested in Yerdle – a Web startup whose stated mission is to reduce new-product purchases by twenty-five per cent – as a way for people, and even the company itself, to swap or give away used Patagonia gear. Most recently, the brand sent a truck out on the road, driving around the US and mending people’s clothing for free. It’s all pretty righteous, and demonstrates that big business can have a heart.

The New Yorker has published a great article this week that explores Patagonia’s business model in much more detail, and is certainly worth a read. Find it over here.