Any company looking to green up their act and exist in an environmentally responsible way should take a look at Patagonia. The specialist outdoor clothing manufacturer vow to act responsibly in the hope that we can leave behind a habitable world in which beauty and biodiversity are protected. After all, as they say on their website, “a healthy planet is necessary for a healthy business.” But just what are Patagonia doing to run their business responsibly? It turns out their unique approach to sharing information on their manufacturing process is something all aspiring green businesses could take a tip from.
The best environmentally responsible businesses make transparency a priority, and Patagonia takes this belief to the extreme. Open and candid about the manufacture of their clothing, the information they share may not be pretty, but it forces consumers to stop and think.
Patagonia recently released a step by step documentation of the environmental impact of five fairly unassuming products. The results highlighted some worrying statistics, all of which were openly published by Patagonia on their website. A Patagonia polo shirt was tracked from the organic cotton farm in Turkey, to the spinning factory in Thailand to a Nevadan warehouse. The resultant carbon proving to be 40 times the weight of the garment itself, with the levels of waste generated also equalling the weight of the garment.
The Patagonia website holds a wealth of information about the footprint of every garment, with their Footprint Chronicles map helping to track the journey of Patagonia products across the globe, and catalogues of PDF files documenting factors such as factory choice, labour, material assessments, water usage and green business practice. Warts and all.
How do they make a difference?
It’s easy to argue that transparency doesn’t necessarily equal a greener product- why should customers from the UK choose to buy from an American company like Patagonia? The fact of the matter is, however, that in the world of specialist outdoor clothing, choice is limited, and simply buying local isn’t always a possibility, unlike other areas of the clothing industry. By providing information on the distance travelled by their garments and the subsequent carbon emissions, customers are reminded as they browse that each purchase has a significant environmental impact. As a result, it is hoped that customers give more consideration into whether or not they need the item in question, rather than shopping with only monetary cost in mind.
It takes a brave company to, not only put their reputation on the line by openly discussing their environmental impact, but to risk profits by asking customers to consider their need for the products in question (at times, literally) . While it may be a risky business strategy, it certainly boosts Patagonia’s eco credentials, and as a result, attracts a loyal customer base.
While Patagonia are willing and open to discuss their environmental shortcomings, they have also made a number of moves towards creating more sustainable products overall. This includes their use of “Environmentally-Conscious Fibres”, including:
Fibres are chosen for their sustainability, water consumption, biodegradability and consumption of energy to produce. A detailed explanation of each “e-fibre” can be found on Patagonia’s website.
Like many green businesses, Patagonia see the importance in running their company from a series of sustainable buildings. Their campus in Ventura, California consists of 7 buildings, all either repurposed older structures or newer buildings made from almost 100% recycled materials. Any buildings demolished to make room for the site are reconstructed elsewhere, keeping their materials out of landfill and allowing them to take on a new purpose, reducing waste and saving energy. At least 10% of their service centre in Nevada, which acts as the main warehouse, is built with post-consumer and post-industrial material, while the 31 Patagonia retail stores which exist across North America are almost exclusively repurposed buildings, chosen in order to save on using new materials. If this isn’t possible, buildings are built with the intent to last, whilst using environmentally friendly materials, and built to fit in with their surroundings.
A company’s energy use has a large impact on the carbon footprint of a product as a whole, which is why Patagonia use renewable energy wherever possible to keep their impact low. This includes 498 solar panels at their headquarters, saving electricity use by around 14%. LED lighting is also used, which saves around 38% of energy of the previous lighting. The Service Centre warehouse in Reno uses a series of photo and motion sensors to ensure lights are switched off when not needed, and warehouse air conditioning is replaced by a night-flush system in which cold night air is circulated around the building, so all energy consumption is kept to a minimum.
The environmental merits of Patagonia are numerous and it would take a long, long time to list them all in detail, which is why their website is so dedicated to giving its customers an in-depth view into how they work towards sustainability, as well as admitting where they could do better. Patagonia set the benchmark for green businesses in terms of their work towards a carbon neutral manufacturing process, their treatment of workers and their honesty- values that any green business owner should be honouring. More information can be found at www.patagonia.com
Image sourced: Nicolas Boullosatagseco fashiongreen businessgreen workplacepatagonia