Patagonia Founder Gives Away $3 Billion Company to Fight Climate Change

This story was originally published by Vogue Business.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard announced yesterday that he’s given away the $3 billion company to a charitable trust and environmental non-profit, to widespread praise.

Social media feeds filled with statements like “exemplary leadership”, “a billionaire worth celebrating”, “inspiring” and “Yvon, you legend”, as people digested the news. What it means for the industry is less clear, but some hope it at least raises the bar on what consumers can expect companies — and their leadership — to do on climate change.

“We’ve been talking about a new form of conscious capitalism for years, led by leaders like Whole Foods Market founder John Mackey, but this is a very significant signal to industry towards that direction,” says Lewis Perkins, president of the Apparel Impact Institute, which recently announced a $250 million climate fund aimed at decarbonizing the fashion supply chain. “It will be interesting to learn more about the philanthropic strategy of the Holdfast Collective as they become one of the largest climate-focused grantmakers in our country, if not the world.”

The Holdfast Collective, along with the Patagonia Purpose Trust, are the new entities that have taken over the Chouinard family’s ownership of Patagonia, which sells outdoor clothing and camping gear. The Patagonia Purpose Trust now owns all the voting stock and was created to enshrine the company’s purpose and values, and ensure Patagonia never deviates from them.

The Holdfast Collective owns the company’s non-voting stock and will “use every dollar received from Patagonia to protect nature and biodiversity, support thriving communities and fight the environmental crisis”. This means all the profits not reinvested back into the business will be distributed as an annual dividend to help fight the climate crisis, with a projected value of roughly $100 million.

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“Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth, we are using the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source. We’re making Earth our only shareholder. I am dead serious about saving this planet,” Chouinard said in a statement.

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