Patagonia is often cited as the ultimate example of a brand with an authentic purpose that goes beyond profit. Its purpose is stitched into the very fabric of its design, supply chain, distribution and HR policies and guides the company’s strategy. Because Patagonia is not publicly traded, it is free to make decisions without the added pressure of maximising profit for shareholders. Instead, it uses the Higg Index to determine return on investment which balances long-term economic success with the health of the environment and society.
Despite strict adoption of fair trade labour, use of recycled or renewable fabrics and having a nearly 50/50 split of male and female executives, the company acknowledges there is more work to do and continuously strives to improve and deliver on its mission to protect the planet.
Patagonia's commitment to sustainability helps give the brand a distinct identity and inspires impactful advertising and publicity. The narrative helps cement the connection between the brand and the concept of ruggedness/durability i.e. 'Patagonia is the one that makes its products so strong they last for ages - because it’s better for the planet. They’ve even stopped stitching on logos because it weakens the fabric!’. In 2011, the brand placed a full-page ad in The New York Times encouraging people to buy second-hand Patagonia jackets instead of new ones. The campaign, of course, emphasised the longevity of their jackets and Patagonia sales saw a 30% increase in the following year.
Thank you to Marc Binkley for providing the background research to this example.