Climber by choice and accidental billionaire, founder and ex-majority shareholder of Patagonia Yvon Chouinard just quit his company to save the planet he loves from the climate crisis. This month, the reluctant business magnate made a historic decision to transfer his ownership of the company to the newly formed Patagonia Purpose Trust, dedicated to upholding the company’s values, and the Holdfast Collective, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the planet prescribed.
Chouinard released a statement claiming he never hoped to be a businessman, but with Patagonia he tried to improve the way sustainable business could be done. Now 100 percent of the company’s voting stock (two percent of the company) will be given to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, while 98 percent of the company’s total stock will be given to the Holdfast Collective to serve the environment.
“Earth is now our sole shareholder,” Chouinard wrote in a statement about the decision. “Although we are doing our best to address the environmental crisis, it is not enough. We had to find a way to put more money into fighting the crisis while keeping the company’s values intact. To be honest there weren’t any good options. So we created our own.”
From that point forward, Holdfast Collective will receive the company’s annual profits, which are estimated to be approximately $100 million. The organization is dedicated to restoring biodiversity, protecting vulnerable ecosystems and supporting communities worldwide.
“It has been almost 50 years since we began our experiment in responsible business and we are just getting started. If we can hope for a thriving planet – let alone a thriving company – in 50 years, then it’s going to take everything we can with the resources we have. This is another way we’ve found to do our part,” Choiunard continues in his statement. “Despite their immensity, the Earth’s resources are not infinite and it’s clear we’ve exceeded their limits. But it’s also resilient. We can save our planet if we put our minds to it.”
Chouinard is committed to an environmentally friendly lifestyle
Taking care of the environment is nothing new for Chouinard or Patagonia. In 2020, the company released a statement urging its customers to “vote climate deniers out of office.” Since its inception, Patagonia’s business model has prioritized the environment and launched several programs to improve manufacturing standards. Currently, 88 percent of the company’s sourced materials are preferred materials, including organic and regenerative organic cotton, hemp, recycled polyester and recycled nylon.
Prior to the ownership transfer, Patagonia gave away one percent of sales each year, earned B Corp and California Benefit Corporation certification, and redesigned its value to better the planet. But Chouinard believed that wasn’t enough and that the Patagonia brand could better serve the planet. Despite criticism that it’s motivated by a tax benefit, Holdfast Collective is a 501(c)(4), meaning it allows unlimited political donations.
“The cost was significant for them, but they were willing to bear that cost to ensure this company stayed true to its principles,” said Dan Mosley, a partner at BDT, which helped Patagonia design the new structure & Co., told The New York Times. “And they didn’t get a charitable deduction for it. There is no tax benefit here.”
After the change, the lead remains unchanged. The new business structure will introduce a new, greener way of doing business and redistribute wealth from leaders to planets. Ryan Gellert will continue as CEO and the Chouinard family will retain their seats on Patagonia’s board of directors.
“Two years ago, the Chouinard family challenged some of us to develop a new structure with two key objectives,” Gellert said in a statement. “They wanted us to both protect the company’s purpose and immediately and permanently release more funds to address the environmental crisis. We believe this new structure accomplishes both, and we hope it will inspire a new way of doing business that puts people and planet first.”
Food for the Planet
Shifting our food systems towards more sustainability has been increasingly spotlighted as a possible solution to the climate crisis, and Chouinard is on board and adopting a plant-based diet to help save the planet.
Chouinard eats from the organic salad bar at Patagonia’s headquarters in Ventura, Cali, according to a recent press report mountain outlaw. He “piles vegetables onto a plate for lunch,” the interviewer testified, and “picks out spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, edamame, radishes, fennel, quinoa, cashews.” Then he adds mashed sweet potatoes and black bean patties. She added that he checks out just like the other Patagonia employees. “As the founder and owner of leading outdoor apparel and gear retailer Patagonia, Chouinard pays for his meal at the company’s subsidized cafeteria, just like everyone else.”
While Chouinard isn’t strictly plant-based, he makes sure everything in his diet is sustainably produced, harvested, or sourced. In 2012 he founded Patagonia Provisions, which sells only organic grains or sustainably caught salmon products.
“Every company has to change their mission statement to save the planet,” he said at the time. “I really believe that we need a revolution, [and] The only revolution we are likely to have is in agriculture. It solves an enormous number of the world’s problems.”
How nutrition helps curb climate change
According to researchers at the Mercator Research Center, 85 percent of the world is currently affected by a climate crisis. With heat waves, massive floods and severe storms threatening millions of lives worldwide, climate protection cannot be delayed any longer. That means governments need to regulate agribusiness to avoid climate catastrophe.
Oxford University researchers concluded that without meat and dairy consumption, we could use around 75 percent less land for agriculture The guard. By adopting a plant-based diet, consumers could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 61 percent.
With the help of ProVeg International, the UN will host a nutrition-centric climate event at this year’s COP27 climate conference. The Food4Climate Pavilion will help educate guests on how to protect the planet, starting with food production reform.
For more planetary events, see The Beet’s Environmental News.
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