Patagonia’s founder, Yvonne Chouinard, made big news on September 14th when he took to Twitter to announce that he had donated his $3 billion company to a custom-built trust and nonprofit.
“Hey, friends, we just gave our company to the planet Earth. Well, it’s more subtle than that, but we’re closed today to celebrate this new plan to save our one and only home. We’ll be back online tomorrow,” Chouinard wrote via the official Patagonia Twitter account.
“Instead of ‘showing up,’ you could say we’re ‘working on a goal.’ Instead of extracting value from nature and turning it into wealth for investors, we will use the wealth that Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.”
Patagonia has been known for its focus on activism since Chouinard founded the outerwear company in the 1970s. Since 1985, it has donated 1% of its total sales to environmental groups via the One% for the Planet Organization founded by Chouinard.
In 2013, it launched a $20 million venture capital fund and a change to support companies with plans to promote environmental change and make their products more environmentally friendly.
Perhaps one of the most daring choices Patagonia has been known for (well, before now, that is) was in 2019, when it began banning companies from buying custom fleece jackets unless those who wanted to buy them were “mission-driven companies that prioritize the planet.” ”
Despite all that, this new move certainly sets a precedent that draws public attention to what other billionaires choose to do with their fortunes.
Chouinard’s move has received plenty of praise on social media, with some stunned by the founder’s “generosity, environmental stewardship, and integrity.” Some have even suggested that such choices could “lead to the end of capitalism”.
However, of course, as has been the case since the internet came into being, there have been many willing to criticize Chouinard’s decisions.
Some were not sure that Patagonia’s future looked as good as Chouinard made it seem in his letter about the decision to give up his ownership of the company. Twitter user Emily Atkin questioned some of the finer details, asking how exactly the newly created fund would be used.
Others believe the move was a tax avoidance scheme by Patagonia, with the New York Times somehow in the scheme.
Finally, one person has found a way to somehow focus on the negatives that Patagonia is believed to be committing, which includes wool, greenhouse gas emissions, and having the gall of not using only vegetable wool in their products.
Wherever there is a change, memes will follow
But perhaps the best response to the news, aside from both admiration and criticism, is from people who have imagined how both the family’s heirs and private equity shareholders might feel what Chouinard’s decision means for them. While there is a lot to take away from this bold move, there is also some laughter to be had.