Patagonia boss pledges billion dollar company to fight climate change

Patagonia boss, billionaire Yvon Chouinard, revealed why he's signing his multi-billion dollar company over to charitable trust

A Patagonia store signage is seen on Greene Street on September 14, 2022 in New York City. Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, his spouse and two adult children announced that they will be giving away the ownership of their company which is worth about $3 billion. The company's privately held stock will be now be owned by a climate-focused trust and group of nonprofit organizations, called the Patagonia Purpose Trust and the Holdfast Collective, and all the profits that are not reinvested into the business will be used to fight climate change.
(Image credit: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Patagonia boss Yvon Chouinard revealed the news in a statement that explained his reasoning for such a bold move. 

The company, founded back in 1973, has become known as the purveyor of cozy jumpers; some of the best winter coats; and its iconic logo which has become uber stylish as the years have gone by. Not bad considering its founder sort of fell into it.

"I never wanted to be a businessman," explained the 83-year-old in the statement. "I started as a craftsman, making climbing gear for my friends and myself, then got into apparel." Patagonia's sales, per the BBC, were approximately $1.5B this year, and the accidental businessman is believed to be worth $1.2B.

After considering selling Patagonia and donating the money from the sale to charity, he was beset by concerns for the job stability of his huge workforce. Another option, taking the company public and using proceeds to fund the important work, didn't seem right either. So, the maverick made his own choice. "Truth be told," he said, "there were no good options available. So, we created our own."

Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard speaks onstage during the Inaugural Tribeca X: A Day of Conversations Celebrating the Intersection of Entertainment and Advertising sponsored by PwC on April 26, 2019 at Spring Studios in New York City.

(Image credit: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Tribeca X)

Patagonia has become known for its commitment to sustainability, placing itself among the best sustainable fashion brands in the world. They also donate 1% of annual sales to help support grassroots climate change activism. For Yvon, despite the amount his company is already doing to fight the environmental crisis, it's simply not enough. 

The Patagonia Purpose Trust, led by the Chouinard family, will continue to be the company's principal shareholder, but they'll only own 2% of Patagonia's stock. "We need to find a way to put more money into fighting the crisis while keeping the company’s values intact," said Yvon. "The funding will come from Patagonia: Each year, the money we make after reinvesting in the business will be distributed as a dividend to help fight the crisis."

They'll help guide the Holdfast Collective, "a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature," which now owns 100% of the nonvoting stock.

For this lover of all things outdoors, focussing on tackling the climate emergency is to be his legacy. "Despite its immensity," he adds, signing off his statement, "the Earth’s resources are not infinite, and it’s clear we’ve exceeded its limits. But it’s also resilient. We can save our planet if we commit to it."

Yvon is joining a burgeoning bunch of billionaires, who are eager to use their money to make the world a better place. Many of these mega-rich individuals have even signed up for an agreement known as The Giving Pledge. This pledge is, "a promise by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes."

Aoife Hanna
Junior News Editor

Aoife is an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.

Formerly woman&home's junior news editor and a contributing writer at Bustle, her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica and EVOKE.

Her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.