Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard: One of America's Best Leaders


Photo: Matt Slaby

"Corporations are real weenies," he says. "They are scared to death of everything. My company exists, basically, to take those risks and prove that it's a good business." This is Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia, the $ 270 million USD outdoor clothing talking to U.S. News who just included him in their 2009 list of America's 25 Best Leaders.

Yvon knows about risk. Both personal (climber, skier, white water paddler, surfer). And corporate. In 1972 Yvon told rockclimbers there was a more environmentally sound way to protect themselves on rock routes that didn't require bashing metal pitons in and out of the rock. At that time he was making his money selling pitons. In 1994 he discovered the perils of conventional cotton and gave his staff just 18 months to move Patagonia's entire cotton clothing line to organic cotton. At the time 20% of his sales came from cotton sportswear.

Since then Patagonia has managed to persuade companies like Nike, Timberland, and even Wal-Mart to begin switching to organic cotton.

The U.S. News article doesn't cover any new ground that you won't read elsewhere, (see our links below.) But they do a nice quick summary.

"Since 1985, Patagonia has donated 1 percent of its annual sales to grass-roots environmental groups, and it has gotten more than 1,200 companies to follow its lead as part of its "1% for the Planet" group. [...] Lately, it has brought together an unprecedented coalition of governors, businesses, and environmental groups to protect animal migration corridors."

The piece concludes with Yvon acknowledging that every product, no matter how much thought goes into it, has a destructive impact on Earth. Nothing, he says, is completely sustainable. "I avoid using that word as much as I can," he says. Nonetheless, "I keep at it, because it's the right thing to do."

::U.S. News Interview Yvon Chouinard
More Yvon Chounard
Yvon Chouinard Wins Environmental Good Guy Award
Yvon Chouinard Gets Fortune Magazine Cover Story
The TH Interview: Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia (Part One)
The TH Interview: Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia (Part One)
The TH Interview: Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia (Part Two)
QOTD by Yvon Chouinard

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