work journal

Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard is in Business to Save the Earth—Not Wall Street

October 1, 2023

Yvon Chouinard has been making business decisions with a wider lens than your typical entrepreneur since he founded Patagonia nearly 50 years ago.

Even back then, he knew that Earth—meaning this planet we live on and call home—is an incalculably valuable and finite resource. And he made business decisions through that lens.  

I met Chouinard in 2019 while on assignment for Esquire Magazine to write a story about his forthcoming book, Some Stories, Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport, as well as the company's new mission: To Save Our Home Planet.

At the time, I was five months pregnant with my son, Gus, and my swollen belly was a poignant underscore of our conversation.

This was before Chouinard essentially gave his company away, committing all future profits to fight the climate crisis, but Patagonia had been committed to action all the way along, from donating millions to grassroots environmental causes to its support of Indigenous climate activism to going carbon neutral.

We talked for an hour at Patagonia headquarters in Ventura, California, and then shared lunch at the employee cafeteria. When we first started, he leaned back in his chair, flip flops pushing back against the table base. Soon he was leaning in, sharing his vision as if the world depends on it.

It just might.

Comparing climate change to the bombing of Pearl Harbor (“We gotta mobilize the whole country”), he laid out a four-point plan:

“One, we can really push regenerative agriculture. Two, we can work to get rid of this evil [administration]. Three, we can work on saving large, wild places and restoring damaged lands that are no longer capturing carbon but could if they were restored. And number four is educating women in Third World countries, because that’s the most effective thing you can do to stabilize populations. ... My big issue is saving the planet. Nothing else matters.”

Looking through this perspective, I see how my seemingly varied interests actually weave together toward this mission.

  • Gardening and smaller-scale food systems rooted in organic principles
  • Climbing and wilderness
  • My past reporting on and subsequent work with governments, economic development and finance, and conservation organizations
  • My collaboration with the nonprofit Iqra Fund, which builds sustainable school systems in northern Tribal Pakistan
  • My efforts now to create more capacity for leadership and collaboration, so teams can contribute to social and environmental efforts

We gather myriad skills and interests over the course of our lives, and it's hard not to want to funnel it into something greater than yourself—or at least, for me, it is.

How about you?

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