Patagonia founder is giving away his company in pledge to fight climate change

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is gifting the multibillion-dollar outdoor apparel company he founded nearly 50 years ago with a goal to help fight climate change.

Rather than take the company public or sell it, Mr. Chouinard and his family are transferring ownership of Patagonia to a trust and a nonprofit organization, the founder said in a statement Wednesday.

“It’s almost 50 years since we began our experiment in responsible business, and we’re just getting started,” said Mr. Chouinard, a world-class mountaineer, began importing rugby jerseys and other clothing in the 1970s for his friends to wear. . “If we have any hope of a thriving planet — much less a thriving business — 50 years from now, it’s going to take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have. This is another way we’ve come up with to do our part.”

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Patagonia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company made a name for itself selling fleece jackets, board shorts and plaid shirts. The fleece vests in particular have developed a cult following from people who work in finance, while the company’s environmentally and socially conscious practices have garnered dedicated buyers in other consumer spheres.

Patagonia will remain a for-profit company under the new arrangement and will continue to be run by CEO Ryan Gellert, Mr. Chouinard. The company will also continue to donate 1% of its sales to environmental nonprofit groups, he said.

The trust, called the Patagonia Purpose Trust, will protect the company’s existing values ​​and independence, Mr. Chouinard. The nonprofit organization, called the Holdfast Collective, will be required to take the profits generated by Patagonia and use those funds to address climate change.

The Chouinard family will oversee the management of the Patagonia Purpose Trust and will spearhead the philanthropic work of the Holdfast Collective. The family will also remain members of Patagonia’s board of directors.

Holdfast Collective owns 98% of the company and all the non-voting shares, which does not give it decision-making power. The Patagonia Purpose Trust owns 2% of the company and all the voting shares.

Mr. Chouinard has said he approaches running his business as a kind of road map for aspiring business owners.

“I never even wanted to be in business,” he said in a 2012 interview with The Wall Street Journal. “But I stick with Patagonia because it’s my resource to do something good. It’s a way to show that companies can live examined lives.”

Write to Joseph De Avila at joseph.deavila@wsj.com and Joseph Pisani at joseph.pisani@wsj.com

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Appeared in the print edition on September 15, 2022 as ‘Patagonia Founder Is Giving Clothing Company Away’.

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