Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard a Leader in Social and Environmental Excellence

Business

Founder of Patagonia, Inc., Yvon Chouinard, after receiving the Inamori Ethics Prize. Photo credit: Daniel Milner

I had the distinct honor Sept. 12 of meeting the founder of Patagonia, Inc., Yvon Chouinard, who was visiting my hometown of Cleveland to receive the Inamori Ethics Prize from Case Western Reserve University's Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence. The prize honors an individual who has demonstrated exemplary ethical leadership, and whose actions and influence have created the potential for improving the condition of humankind.

Chouinard, a legendary rock climber and avid outdoorsman, is a global leader in corporate social responsibility with a keen focus on protecting the planet. He has channeled his personal passion for the natural world into a successful enterprise that sets a high standard for ethical practices, making him the ideal candidate for this year's Inamori Ethics Prize.

Many parts of the evening were remarkable including how many times I overheard people tell Chouinard, "You have been my inspiration." Having spent more than two decades growing a business idea, which has become EcoWatch, I too have found the mission, vision and values of Chouinard and Patagonia a shinning light on my journey, and was delighted when Chouinard graciously signed my copy of his memoir, Let My People Go Surfing.

The entire event—the academic symposium, cocktail reception, ceremony, public lecture and dinner that took place on the Case Western Reserve University campus and at Severance Hall, regarded by many as one of the world's most beautiful concert halls and the home of The Cleveland Orchestra—was a celebration of ethics and leadership that underscored the importance of companies putting people and planet before profits.

Patagonia, a Certified B Corporation and member of 1% for the Planet, is an exemplary model proving that one does not have to sacrifice success when prioritizing social and environmental consequences in day-to-day decision making. One example Chouinard gave during his public lecture, The Responsible Economy, was Patagonia opening a store in Boston, MA.

He told the sold-out crowd that three days after opening the store his employees were complaining of headaches, so they closed the store and brought in a chemical engineer. The engineer told Chouinard that he was poisoning his employees because the ventilation system was recycling inside air. Chouinard asked the engineer "What's the poison?" and the engineer replied, "It's formaldehyde and it's on all your clothing."

Chouinard and his company had two choices, fix the ventilation system or fix their supply chain. They chose the latter.

Patagonia staff researched and found that industrially grown cotton is most likely the worst material for their clothing since it uses 23 percent of the world's pesticides even though it occupies only three percent of the world's farmland. Next, Chouinard took his employees to California's Central Valley where they saw firsthand that cotton grown with pesticides is one of the most destructive crops in the agricultural world. They found an alternative, organically grown cotton, but farmers weren't growing it yet, so Patagonia did whatever was necessary to jumpstart the industry, including co-signing farmers' bank loans.

The lessons learned from cotton production were just the beginning of Patagonia's intensive and long process of examining their entire supply chain and becoming a responsible company.

Chouinard's eco-friendly philosophy stems from the teachings of America's naturalists John Muir, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Dr. Kazuo Inamori, who through a generous gift to Case Western Reserve University created the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence, brings to mind the values of these legendary figures: "People have no greater calling than to serve the greater good of humankind and society."

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Refrigerated trucks function as temporary morgues at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal on May 06, 2020 in New York City. As of July, the states where COVID-19 cases are rising are mostly in the West and South. Justin Heiman / Getty Images

The official number of people in the U.S. who have lost their lives to the new coronavirus has now passed 130,000, according to tallies from The New York Times, Reuters and Johns Hopkins University.

Read More Show Less
A man walks on pink snow at the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, Italy on July 4, 2020. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP via Getty Images

In a troubling sign for the future of the Italian Alps, the snow and ice in a glacier is turning pink due to the growth of snow-melting algae, according to scientists studying the pink ice phenomenon, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Climate activist Greta Thunberg discusses EU plans to tackle the climate emergency with Parliament's environment committee on March 4, 2020. CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2020 – Source: EP

By Abdullahi Alim

The 2008 financial crisis spurred a number of youth movements including Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. A decade later, this anger resurfaced in a new wave of global protests, from Hong Kong to Beirut to London, only this time driven by the children of the 2008 financial crisis.

Read More Show Less
A climate activist holds a victory sign in Washington, DC. after President Obama announced that he would reject the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal on November 6, 2015. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

The Supreme Court late Monday upheld a federal judge's rejection of a crucial permit for Keystone XL and blocked the Trump administration's attempt to greenlight construction of the 1,200-mile crude oil project, the third such blow to the fossil fuel industry in a day—coming just hours after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the court-ordered shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less
A forest fire in Yakutsk in eastern Siberia on June 2, 2020. Yevgeny Sofroneyev / TASS via Getty Images

Once thought too frozen to burn, Siberia is now on fire and spewing carbon after enduring its warmest June ever, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
The Colima fir tree's distribution has been reduced to the area surrounding the Nevado de Colima volcano. Agustín del Castillo

By Agustín del Castillo

For 20 years, the Colima fir tree (Abies colimensis) has been at the heart of many disputes to conserve the temperate forests of southern Jalisco, a state in central Mexico. Today, the future of this tree rests upon whether the area's avocado crops will advance further and whether neighboring communities will unite to protect it.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Independent environmental certifications offer a better indicator of a product's eco credentials, including labor conditions for workers involved in production. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Jeanette Cwienk

This summer's high street fashions have more in common than styles and colors. From the pink puff-sleeved dream going for just €19.99 ($22.52) at H&M, to Zara's elegant €12.95 ($14.63) halter-neck dress, clothing stores are alive with cheap organic cotton.

"Sustainable" collections with aspirational own-brand names like C&A's "Wear the change," Zara's "join life" or H&M's "CONSCIOUS" are offering cheap fashion and a clean environmental conscience. Such, at least, is the message. But is it really that simple?

Read More Show Less