Patagonia’s Commitment to Challenging the Confines of Traditional Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility is fast becoming a staple in business transparency efforts and many organisations are devising and executing multifaceted CSR strategies, that run the spectrum from philanthropy to environmental sustainability to the pursuit of shared value. For many companies, this broad approach to CSR strategies is often hampered by a lack of coordination and logic when connecting the various programs. To maximize their positive impact on the social and environmental systems in which they operate, companies must develop coherent CSR strategies that all employees can both engage with and take responsibility of.

American born alpine and outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, takes a wildly innovative approach to challenging and venturing beyond the confines of traditional CSR; by the discouragement of compulsive consumerism, encouragement of conscious consumerism, call to actions and giving grants to green individuals and organizations: Patagonia. The clothing company started in the midst of the climate crisis with the mission to “use the resources we have – our business, our investments, our voice and our imaginations – to do something about it”. The company donates their time, services and at least 1% of sales to support grassroots organisations all over the world so they can remain vigilant and protect our irreplaceable Planet Earth.

In addition to financially supporting environmental campaigns, Patagonia’s corporate response to climate change dared to go one step further into beyond compliant territory, when they launched a digital platform called Patagonia Action Works, that connects its community to environmental action groups happening locally to them. The launch follows the huge success of the platform in North America, after it saw half a million people take action to support environmental issues of urgency and enabled users to volunteer time and skills, join events, sign petitions and donate to local and global conservation causes. This accessible platform not only unlocks the potential to support purpose-driven organisations, it mobilizes collective action.

In 2011, Patagonia shocked competitors and consumers alike when their Black Friday advertisement was released in The Times newspaper.

It was this radical advert that introduced Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative – a zero waste culture that encourages consumers to buy less and wear more. “Recycling is what we do when we’re out of options to avoid, repair, or reuse the product first. That’s why I am so impressed with Patagonia for starting its Common Threads Initiative with the real solution: Reduce. Don’t buy what we don’t need. Repair: Fix stuff that still has life in it. Reuse: Share. Then, only when you’ve exhausted those options, recycle.” –Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff.

Off the back of the Common Threads Initiative, Patagonia has recently launched an extension and their own online thrift store, Worn Wear. The Worn Wear mission is similar, reminding people that garments have a much longer lifespan than we think.

“Worn Wear is a set of tools to help our customers partner with Patagonia to take mutual responsibility to extend the life of the products Patagonia makes and customers purchase. The program provides significant resources for responsible care, repair, reuse and resale, and recycling at the end of a garment’s life.”

Patagonia’s Worn Wear website

Not only can a customer purchase pre-loved gear and clothing, they can trade in old Patagonia clothing in exchange for credit to use in their retail stores or online, to keep the garments as far away from landfills as possible.

As we get well into 2020, Patagonia is reforming the “make do and mend” culture, investing in sustainable programs and building a community of like-minded people, through access to education across a multitude of platforms – proving that a beyond compliant CSR strategy is commercially viable, attainable and endlessly rewarding.

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