Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard, who has previously expressed his reluctance at amassing wealth, is giving away his company to help fight climate change.
The outdoor apparel company will now be in the hands of two new entities: the Patagonia Purpose Trust and the Holdfast Collective, a nonprofit organization. Every dollar that is not reinvested back into Patagonia will be distributed as dividends to protect the planet.
“It’s been a half-century since we began our experiment in responsible business,” Chouinard, 84, said. “If we have any hope of a thriving planet 50 years from now, it demands all of us doing all we can with the resources we have. As the business leader I never wanted to be, I am doing my part.”
He added, “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.”
The Patagonia Purpose Trust will control all voting stock of the company (2%), while the Holdfast Collective, a climate change nonprofit, will own all nonvoting stock (98%). Each year, profits that are not reinvested back into the business will be distributed by Patagonia as a dividend to the Holdfast Collective to help fight the climate crisis. The company projects that it will pay out an annual dividend of roughly $100 million, depending on the health of the business.
Chouinard, who is currently a board member, said in a statement that while trying to fight climate change, he realized his company was contributing to it. So he had been thinking about what to do with the business.
One option was to sell it and donate the money, but Chouinard said he was concerned new owners might not hold the same values or keep the same employees. The other option was to become a publicly traded entity.
“What a disaster that would have been,” he said. “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 company will continue to give 1% of its earnings to grassroots environmental groups, and the leadership will not change.
This is big news for everyone fighting climate change. Hopefully, we will see more companies follow suit.