Since its inception, Patagonia, Inc. has exemplified the principles of slow commerce. The outdoor gear and clothing company has grown from its humble beginnings in Yvon Chouinard’s tin shed to $300 million in sales without sacrificing its values as an environmentally conscious company. Through initiatives such as 1% For The Planet, Freedom to Roam, and Sin Represas, Patagonia continues to dedicate large amounts of resources to protecting the world’s wild places for future generations. The company is also extremely transparent about its supply chain and continually strives to reduce the environmental impact of its products.
Perhaps the greatest example yet of Patagonia “putting its money where its mouth is” is the company’s new Common Threads Initiative. On Black Friday last November, when every other retailer was dreaming of record-busting holiday sales, Patagonia took out a full-page ad in the New York Times with a simple, brazen headline: “DON’T BUY THIS JACKET”. In the copy that follows, Patagonia calls on its customers to join in the effort to reduce the environmental impact of runaway consumerism. As the ad explains, we rarely consider the amount of resources that go into producing something as simple as a fleece jacket. (Imagine trying to fit 135 liters of water and 20 pounds of carbon dioxide under the Christmas tree.) In order to reign in waste and build awareness, Patagonia has invited customers to join Common Threads by taking a four-part pledge: reduce what we buy, repair what we own, reuse old gear and clothing, and recycle what is worn out.
In today’s world of rampant greenwashing, attaching your brand to an environmental cause is nothing special. The message of the Common Threads Initiative, however, is something entirely different. Patagonia is actively encouraging people to buy less of its products, going so far as to host an eBay storefront where customers can buy used, rather than new, Patagonia gear. What’s the catch? What can the company possibly stand to gain from such a backwards sales technique? The answer is something that is far more valuable than a record-setting quarter - trust. Trust from customers that the company stands for what it believes in. Trust that it will continue to make environmentally-conscious decisions, even at a cost to its bottom line. That way when it is finally time to buy a new jacket, customers can buy from Patagonia knowing that its products have met a rigorous set of environmental standards. Through Common Threads Patagonia is building long-term sales relationships with customers without sacrificing the natural wonders that inspired the company’s founding. That, in a nutshell, is slow commerce.
Learn more, and take the Common Threads pledge, here.