Patagonia founder is giving away company, ensuring profits go to fight climate change

Patagonia founder is giving away company, ensuring profits go to fight climate change

The founder of outdoor brand Patagonia has relinquished his ownership of the company and is directing its profits to fight climate change.

Yvon Chouinard, who became famous for alpine climbing in Yosemite National Park and then as a manufacturer of outdoor gear, has transferred his family’s ownership of Patagonia to two new entities, one of which is a non-profit organization that will use the annual corporate profits to fight climate change, the company said in a press release on Wednesday.

“Instead of extracting value from nature and turning it into wealth, we use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source. We make the Earth our sole shareholder,” Chouinard, 83, said in the statement.

In a letter to clients, Chouinard said Patagonia is now owned by a trust that will set the company’s direction and a new nonprofit group called the Holdfast Collective, which is dedicated to protecting nature and other environmental causes.

The leadership of the company has not changed.

“While we are doing our best to address the environmental crisis, it is not enough,” Chouinard wrote. “… Every year the money we make after reinvesting in the business will be distributed as a dividend to help fight the crisis.”

The company expects to contribute approximately $100 million to Holdfast Collective through an annual dividend depending on the success of the operations.

In a question-and-answer section attached to Chouinard’s letter, the company said Patagonia continues to be a for-profit business as a certified B Corp, a designation for companies that consider factors such as the social and environmental impact of their operations.

It also said the Chouinard family will continue to “guide the Patagonia Purpose Trust, electing and overseeing its leadership” and sit on Patagonia’s board of directors. The company will “continue to do everything it can to be a great employer.”

Denis Hayes, who coordinated the first Earth Day and later became the CEO of the environmentally focused Bullitt Foundation in Seattle, said Chouinard had long been a passionate environmentalist willing to make bold moves and challenge convention. The Patagonia brand, Hayes noted, charges a premium, in part, because of the values ​​it represents.

“Obviously, they’re putting it in the structure that will institutionalize it beyond its lifetime,” said Hayes, whose foundation operates a for-profit building it claims is the greenest in the world.

Hayes said that businesses in manufacturing or extractive industries in a capitalist economy that requires growth ultimately come into conflict with environmental and climate values.

“The idea of ​​putting it together in a new structure and being experimental and daring is exactly the kind of innovation we need to try,” Hayes said.

Chouinard began selling climbing equipment such as a piton in 1957, usually out of his car.

Later, Chouinard became an advocate of so-called “clean climbing,” in which protective gear is placed and removed on rock walls so as not to cause piton hammering damage.

He holds several patents, including one for aluminum climbing chucks designed to cause less rock damage.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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