Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, his spouse and two adult children are giving away their ownership in the apparel maker he started some 50 years ago, dedicating all profits from the company to projects and organizations that will protect wild land and biodiversity and fight the climate crisis.
The company is worth about $3 billion, according to the news. In a letter about the decision, published on the Patagonia website on Wednesday, Choiunard wrote of “reimagining capitalism,” and said: One option was to sell Patagonia and donate all the money. But we couldn’t be sure a new owner would maintain our values or keep our team of people around the world employed.
“While we’re doing our best to address the environmental crisis, it’s not enough. We needed to find a way to put more money into fighting the crisis while keeping the company’s values intact.
Truth be told, there were no good options available. So, we created our own.” The privately held company’s stock will now be owned by a climate-focused trust and group of nonprofit organizations, called the Patagonia Purpose Trust and the Holdfast Collective respectively, the company said in a statement, noting “every dollar that is not reinvested back into Patagonia will be distributed as dividends to protect the planet.”
Another path was to take the company public. What a disaster that would have been. Even public companies with good intentions are under too much pressure to create short-term gain at the expense of long-term vitality and responsibility.
The trust will get all the voting stock, which is 2% of the total, and will use it to create a “more permanent legal structure to enshrine Patagonia’s purpose and values.” It will be overseen by members of the family and close advisors. The Holdfast Collective owns all the non-voting stock of Patagonia, which amounts to 98%.
Patagonia expects to generate and donate about $100 million annually depending on the health of the business. The company now sells new and used outdoor apparel, gear for outdoor activities like camping, fishing and climbing, and food and beverages made from sustainable sources.
Ryan Gellert will continue to serve as Patagonia’s CEO, and the Chouinard family will remain on Patagonia’s board following the apparel maker’s expanded philanthropic strategy. After informing its employees on Wednesday about this move, the company updated its website to state that “Earth is now our only shareholder.”
As a certified B-Corp and California Benefit Corporation, Patagonia was already donating one percent of its sales each year to grassroots activists, and it intends to keep doing so. Fewer than 6,000 companies around the world are certified as B-Corp businesses. They have to meet strict environmental, social and governance standards and benchmarks set by B Labs to gain certification.