Patagonia Promotes ‘Responsible Economy’

Discussion
Oct 09, 2013

Patagonia, the retailer of outdoors products, is serious about environmental issues. The company recently announced the launch of its "The Responsible Economy" campaign, which is focused on promoting business and consumption behaviors that positively address environmental issues.

"Patagonia’s mission is to ‘inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis,’" said Rick Ridgeway, vice president of environmental affairs for the chain, in a statement. "There are two vital concepts in that statement: we implement our own solutions and we inspire others to follow our lead."

The Responsible Economy, according to Patagonia, "challenges the assumption that an economy based on growth and increased consumption is tantamount to prosperity."

In an essay on patagonia.com, Mr. Chouinard summed it up, "I think the simple life really begins with owning less stuff."

Political action is expected to develop through the new program, jointly run with Ifixit.com, which repairs used clothes. Patagonia outlets will sell clothes bought back from customers. When they eventually do reach the end of their natural lives, clothes are taken back for "recycling or repurposing."

Customers, other companies, governments and non-governmental entities will be encouraged to participate in a "worldwide discussion," founder Yvon Chouinard explained, according to wwd.com.

In a company statement, Patagonia cautioned that humans use the earth’s resources at a rate nearly one and a half times faster than nature can replace essential "services" such as clean water, air, arable land and healthy fisheries.

"If the population climbs from seven to nine billion people by 2050 and, even more importantly, our growing and increasingly global high-consumption economy continues to draw down our natural resources, we will exceed the planet’s capacity by 300 to 500 percent, putting us into ecological bankruptcy," noted Vincent Stanley, co-author with Yvon Chouinard of The Responsible Company.

Patagonia’s new campaign was inspired by a strong response to its provocative "Don’t Buy This Jacket" full-page ad in The New York Times on Black Friday, 2011, when it asked customers to think twice about whether they needed a new jacket. The company also recently ran its "Better Than New" ad in the same paper celebrating the re-sale of Patagonia clothing.

What do you think of Patagonia’s “The Responsible Economy” campaign? Is the buying public, beyond Patagonia’s customers, open to messages around shopping responsibly? Should or can other companies embrace such messages?

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16 Comments on "Patagonia Promotes ‘Responsible Economy’"


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Debbie Hauss
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

I think it’s great. Yes, other companies should embrace this messaging, although I doubt most retailers will encourage shoppers NOT to buy.

The fact is, it just can’t hurt to be more environmentally responsible. Most hotels now ask visitors to re-use towels. Many CPG companies are re-thinking packaging to use fewer resources.

These types of activities can certainly be a win-win for everyone, by saving the businesses money in laundry costs and packaging material costs while improving the brand image by being more thoughtful about the environment.

Matt Schmitt
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

Patagonia’s messaging all derives from its core DNA. It doesn’t latch onto a hip trend or cause and then quietly let it go once the PR has worn off.

That said, many brands can and will be able to gain benefits from acting on changes in consumer sentiment and trends related to buying based on conscience and cause/effect.

When more brands emerged offering organic food choices, Walmart saw the rising demand and has moved to meet that demand.

While there are few brands like Patagonia that are built with a truly missional culture embedded in their ongoing strategy, there are many companies that can benefit from embracing “shop responsibly” messages, provided they are committed to meeting customer demand in a real and ongoing way, and not just trying to land some nice PR.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

I like Patagonia’s approach to inspire people to think twice about consumption. The Patagonia brand and its clientele are a community of folks where this message not only resonates but will create further brand affinity and allegiance. These are all core principles of a solid brand.

I believe this core message will begin to resonate beyond Patagonia’s core customers as more people are not only aware of environmental issues but are more apt to select quality products over disposable ‘stuff’. I believe there is tremendous value – both culturally and financially – for select brands to embrace this approach.

Tony Orlando
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

These feel good campaigns are a way for some companies to express their beliefs, which I am all for. The reality is that businesses are always in a battle to grow their sales, and being responsible is part of who they are for the most part. Yes we recycle, and try to minimize our footprint with electrical usage, as this is a good thing, but consumption of the products we produce are what pay the bills, and I don’t know any business that wants to sell less of their goods for the “good” of the environment.

Hello common sense…is anyone home?

The natural food business is growing, and responsibly raised meats have a niche that is available to consumers, but our country already produces the safest products in the world, and looking at it from my perspective, the USA is the world leader in doing things responsibly, with a few exceptions you read about now and then.

Max Goldberg
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

I love this program. It fits the brand’s core story while helping the environment. Patagonia knows that its products are expensive and not for everyone. If they can motivate a small percentage of consumers to trade up to Patagonia, they will have succeeded financially. At the same time, they are challenging other brands and consumers to take care of the planet’s resources. It’s a win-win proposition.

Larry Negrich
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

This campaign falls squarely into Pantagonia’s wheelhouse: environment, conservation, responsibility. It will further clarify their position with their base.

Now what happens if the campaign works well and consumers purchase less of Pantagonia’s products? Do they fire the agency? Or even worse, what if it the campaign’s message doesn’t resonate with the Pantagonia shopper, and it fails miserably causing sales of Pantagonia’s products to spike? Oh, the shame….

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

Maybe I’m going to sound like a grump here – please forgive me, I have a cold – but is it really wise for a company to discourage potential customers from buying its products? Nevertheless, I’ll support them fully: I don’t have any Patagonia gear now, and I pledge never to buy any in the future.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
8 years 7 months ago

This works. Granted, it’s a wild guess on my part, but I’d guess that around 85% of Patagonia’s customers already hold this principle and practice it, so they feel reinforced. These are folks who already prefer to spend their money on adventures and experiences, not trendy “stuff.” But they also know that the right “stuff” and gear can both enhance their adventures and make them safer. Maybe Patagonia thinks that with this initiative they can grow by also pulling in some like-minded customers from REI, Erehwon, etc.

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
8 years 7 months ago

Having clear values and beliefs and communicating them effectively is vital for building strong brands.

This is true for retail brands too, although many retailers don’t seem to give it the attention it deserves. I would suggest some don’t even seem to know what they stand for, let alone how to communicate it….

Lee Peterson
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

Patagonia’s speaking to their core customer, not the masses, unfortunately. We can’t get our own government here in Ohio to stop the support of fracking and the devastation it causes (all in the name of “jobs” of course) let alone reverse that mentality.

Hopefully there’s some ancillary effects from the campaign, even if they attract more like minded consumers. But in the long run, let’s face it, there’s still an uphill battle getting Americans to believe that the planet’s warming!

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
8 years 7 months ago

Rather than encourage potential customers to reconsider their decision to buy a new jacket, which would cost Patagonia the profit on the sale, they could offer a trade-in discount to ensure that the abandoned jackets can be donated or otherwise recycled. This would still help Patagonia sell new stuff (at a slightly reduced profit), while making sure that old or used stuff can be utilized elsewhere.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
8 years 7 months ago

Nice idea that reinforces what Patagonia’s beliefs are (since corporations are ‘people’ according to the US Supreme Court). It won’t work for all retailers, yet, but many corporations are finally getting the message that we can’t keep taxing the planet’s resources at an increasing rate forever.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
8 years 7 months ago

This is such a strong next step for Patagonia to connect with their customers – strengthens the relationship built on the quality of Patagonia clothing and the integrity of the company. Companies that build excellent quality into their products might move ahead with this messaging, but it should be well considered. Great message – building things to last – will resonate.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
8 years 7 months ago
The selling of spiritual identity, political agenda, pet rocks and ecological responsibility is marketing plan commonly known as solution selling. This sales method is most common and thoroughly exploited within the Information Technology (IT) industry. When retailers ponder the use of abstract sales methods there are several cautions that must be considered. The first concern is the amount of money needed to create and perpetuate a single message of urgent need or participation. This puts a constant very high pressure to sell on the company’s employees with “burnouts” reporting factual and concocted derogatory company anecdotes to the market shortly after their exit. This in turn creates a need for damage control usually in the form of new discoveries and or information conjoined to the the ever present marketing pitch which means spending more advertising dollars. The next caution is vendor reliability. This can be a killer. Vendors providing all or the essentials for the products and services sold that are discovered and substantiated to have a shortfall of quality and or reliability have irrevocably destroyed… Read more »
Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
8 years 7 months ago

Patagonia is a very successful niche player. This effort is in perfect alignment with their ethos and brand DNA. Their fan base will clearly support their efforts by altering their own behavior and evangelizing to others. So it will have an impact, even if limited. Except for similar niche players, other retailers/brands will certainly not copy this, even if it proves commercially successful, because it is not within their business model.

We should all be listening to their message, though. We ignore it at our own peril.

Kathleen DesMarteau
Guest
Kathleen DesMarteau
8 years 7 months ago

I applaud the campaign. While the economy requires new product purchases to be healthy, some balance in consumption is good. The earth cannot continue with withstand the disposable habits we have developed, whether with food/drink containers, clothing, etc.

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