Patagonia CEO at SXSW: The Primacy of Profit Is Killing the Planet
Among the hundreds of panels on "disruption" at last weekend's SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, there was one in a tiny hotel ballroom that actually talked about changing the world.
Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario sat down with Greenbiz Executive Editor Joel Makower to talk about the company's unique business practices and the effect they've had on the world. They covered everything from pioneering all-organic cotton, to introducing wetsuits made from plants, to donating 1% of sales to grassroots environmental groups.
But underlying all of these marquee initiatives, it's clear that Patagonia's eco-friendly culture is driven by something more fundamental: a top-down desire to change the way business is done.
Marcario lit up the most not when talking about Patagonia's incredible growth over recent decades, but when stating her conviction that our focus on growth is itself killing the planet. If we don't look beyond this "primacy of profit," she said, "there isn't going to be a planet left! It's that simple!"
It's a chilling thought, but something that's become increasingly apparent. The global business culture of "growth at all costs" has made our environment sick and our communities sicker. The financial world's appetite for ever-rosy quarterly reports means that environmental damage and human injustice can be written off as necessary expenses to the almighty profit.
But Marcario was quick to point out that corporations aren't solely to blame. When we participate in the cycle of consumerism, we are actors in the exact same system. Buy less, she said. Only buy what you actually need, and pay attention to the quality of what you buy.
Ultimately, she said, it's up to this generation to do away with the old culture and come up with a new one. Through better decision making and grassroots activism, we can change the world. "I want us to be citizens, not consumers."
Funny words coming from one of the retail world's biggest voices.