Patagonia Launches Groundbreaking Sustainable Wool Program In Argentina

Kristine Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia Inc, and Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia's Vice President of Environmental Initiatives, pose with The Nature Conservancy's Carlos Fernandez, Ovi XXI's Pablo Borrelli and Patagonia Argentina's Raul Costa at the presentation of the project event. Photo: Patagonia Argentina.

It seems odd how some groups argue that preserving the environment is bad business when the opposite is many times the case. Such an example is wool production: the key to great quality wool is good food for sheep, and key to good food for sheep are natural grasslands.

Problem is, good wool is not always compatible with tons of wool, so the overpopulation of sheep to produce more along with the region's harsh weather conditions have exhausted natural grasslands in the Patagonia region of Argentina, accelerating a desertification process.

In order to fight this and to produce good quality sustainable wool for its products, Patagonia Inc. has teamed with The Nature Conservancy Argentina and Ovis XXI to promote the conservation of natural grasslands and their surrounding environment.The deal is pretty straight forward: Patagonia commits to buy sustainable wool from Ovis XXI, while this organization certifies that the product comes from responsible producers that are keeping and restoring their natural grasslands, and keeps instructing them along with The Nature Conservancy.

While there are currently one million hectares of grasslands certified to be handled in a sustainable way, this partnership hopes to increase that number to six million.

Apart from ordering sustainable wool itself, Patagonia is acting as a nexus between the Argentinean wool producers and the global market of clothes makers: according to the Ovis XXI manager, the company has already connected them with three other brands which will hopefully buy sustainable wool coming from preserved grasslands.

First order by Patagonia added up to almost 40 thousand kilograms of wool worth of more than 790 thousand US dollars.

Kristine Tompkins, former Patagonia CEO, presenting the project in Buenos Aires. Photo: Paula Alvarado.

Why conserving grasslands? A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization states that their potential for carbon mitigation is high, since they store less carbon but they cover 70% of the world's agricultural area (while woods store much CO2 but are fewer), and they also generate benefits such as improving food security, biodiversity and water conservation.

The project, called 'groundbreaking' by executives, was presented in Buenos Aires by Kristine Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia Inc and environmental activist along with husband Douglas Tompkins, and Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia's Vice President of Environmental Initiatives. Also at the event were The Nature Conservancy Argentina's Carlos Fernandez, Ovi XXI's Pablo Borrelli and Patagonia Argentina's Raul Costa.

Ridgeway reminded the crowd Patagonia was serious in its environmental efforts and highlighted the company's recent campaign to ask consumers not to buy stuff they don't need and to get the brand's pre-loved gear at eBay.

It's for projects like these that Patagonia is called "the coolest company on the planet" and its founder, Yvon Chouinard, one of America's best leaders. Frankly, it's hard to resist liking these guys and, as Warren said, that's probably good for business too.

For more on the sustainable design and culture beat in Latin America follow me on Twitter. Latin designer with a green project? Shoot me an e-mail at paula at treehugger dot com
More on Patagonia Inc.'s Environmental Initiatives
The TH Interview: Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia (Part One)
The TH Interview: Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia (Part Two)
Patagonia Launches Common Threads Inititative to Curb Clothing Consumption
Help Patagonia, Musicians, Support the Environment, for Just 99 Cents

Tags: Argentina | Conservation | Patagonia Inc | Sustainable Fabrics


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