Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard Selected to Receive 2013 Inamori Ethics Prize
Case Western Reserve University will award the Inamori Ethics Prize to the founder of the premier outdoor gear and clothing company, Patagonia Inc., Yvon Chouinard. Chouinard is a global leader in corporate social responsibility with a keen focus on protecting the planet. A legendary rock climber and avid outdoorsman, he has channeled his personal passion for the natural world into a successful enterprise that sets high standards for ethical practices to “create the best quality with the least impact.”
Chouinard’s integrity as a business leader and lifetime commitment to corporate social responsibility has earned him the 2013 Inamori Ethics Prize from the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University. He will receive the award at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, at Severance Hall in Cleveland, Ohio.
"Yvon Chouinard's leadership of Patagonia defines corporate social responsibility,” said Shannon French, director of the Inamori Center and the Inamori Professor in Ethics at Case Western Reserve. “He has proven that if you prioritize people and the planet, you can still make a profit. In that respect, his business philosophy reflects similar values to those of the Inamori Ethics Prize's namesake, Dr. Kazuo Inamori.”
“The reason I am in business is I want to protect what I love,” Chouinard said in 2009 interview. “I used to spend 250 days a year sleeping on the ground. I’ve climbed every continent. I’m old enough to see the [environmental] destruction.”
Born in 1938, Chouinard is the son of a French-Canadian handyman, mechanic and plumber. The family lived in Maine before moving to Southern California.
Joining the Southern California Falconry Club at age 14, Chouinard’s investigation of falcon aeries led to an interest in rock climbing. To make adaptations to reflect new climbing methods, he launched his first entrepreneurial venture in 1957. That grew into Chouinard Equipment, one of the sport’s largest suppliers. In 1972, he realized that climbing products were damaging the rocks, so through his innovation and engineering, he introduced and patented new aluminum chocks that eliminated that harm. It was the first major business decision he made on behalf of the environment. That revolutionized climbing and led to further success for the company.
In the 1974 essay, The Word, Chouinard and his business partner, Tom Frost, described what has become the philosophy behind modern rock climbing, which encourages climbers to consider their intent and environmental impact while ascending heights.
Chouinard later infused the same ethical principles into Patagonia’s clothing and gear lines, using recyclable and organic materials for warm and sturdy, yet fashionable, products. Rather than turning a blind eye to environmentally harmful standard cotton practices, he chose to use exclusively pesticide-free organic cotton—launching an organic cotton industry in California in the process.
The honoree’s ethical leadership extends beyond his commitment to producing Earth-friendly products, French said. “He has worked hard to persuade other companies like Gap, Nike, Wal-Mart, Levi Strauss and Adidas to create the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and join Patagonia in meaningful sustainability efforts. He also has created a model for superior employee wellness practices that he encourages other organizations to emulate."
Chouinard’s book, Let My People Go Surfing, describes Patagonia’s unique work environment that fosters employee wellness, with flexible hours and daycare that allows people to reach both company and personal goals. A company power plant of solar panels provides 10 percent of the energy used at the firm’s Ventura, Calif., headquarters. And his campaign, About Our Common Water, reduces Patagonia’s water footprint. Patagonia is working with bluesign® technologies to audit energy and water quality in producing textiles.
Redirecting a percentage of Patagonia’s profits through the company’s Earth Tax Fund sustains and supports grassroots environmental organizations and employee environmental work. He also co-founded The Conservation Alliance to encourage other companies to take similar steps.
Chouinard’s numerous honors include the prestigious David R. Brower Conservation Award in 2007 from The Glen Canyon Institute for his lifetime conservation efforts, a cover story in Fortune magazine and a ranking by U.S. News and World Report that placed him among American’s Best Leaders in 2009.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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