The other day I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, “How I Built This with Guy Raz”. This episode was with the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, who created the company in 1973. He originally started the company because he wanted better quality mountain climbing equipment. Over the years the company has slowly evolved to provide clothing and various other outdoor adventure gear. Patagonia now reportedly makes $1 billion in revenue per year.
That said, this company isn’t the typical organization pushing customers to constantly buy new gear from them. Instead they believe in creating high quality clothing and equipment that can be used for generations and passed on. They have demonstrated this by having the largest garment repair center in North America, which supports their “Ironclad Guarantee” repair program. If any Patagonia equipment or clothing is damaged, their team will try to fix it.
In the past, unlike most retail companies who push for big revenue numbers on Black Friday, the largest retail sales-day of the year, they have donated 100% of their revenue from that day to local nonprofits. And in the past the company put out a full page ad in the New York Times advising customers NOT to buy new!
Plus, in the 80s, Patagonia pioneered ideas like providing maternity and paternity leave for parents, at work day-care, and flexible work schedules — benefits that employees still fight for at many other companies.
I highlight Patagonia because they fall into a set of companies who look at capitalism differently. Capitalism these days gets a bad rap from many intellectuals and neo-liberals, and while I take issue with many components of capitalism, I believe the solution isn’t getting rid of capitalism completely but replacing it with a new form of capitalism that many have been calling ‘Conscious Capitalism’. Conscious Capitalism doesn’t focus solely on maximizing shareholder value (which often leads to a race to the bottom), but maximizing value for all related parties including employees, vendors, the environment and customers. I plan to discuss more about Conscious Capitalism going forward in hopes of inspiring others to build and shape their companies in a different way.
Till then, Patagonia should serve as solid encouragement. Link to the podcast below.