In September 2022 Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, gave away his $3 billion company. That may come as a shock to most. It wouldn’t if you know his history of giving generously throughout his career. There are lessons we can all learn from Chouinard’s strategy of giving generously.
Giving Generously Can Drive Your Business
Chouinard had a love for rock climbing, the outdoors, and preserving nature. This led to the development of many new products to lessen his impact and even heal the environment. It began with the development of aluminum chocks since the steel ones were damaging the rocks and continued with the development of new materials to lessen the impact of certain farming techniques. Now they’ve started producing a long root ale beer made from plants that can actually heal the environment.
Strategically Focus Your Giving
Chouinard’s focus on giving back to the environment drove many others to do the same. In 2002, Chouinard partnered with Craig Mathews, founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, and created 1% for the Planet, an organization that encourages businesses and individuals to support the environment. Later, in 2013 he developed a venture capital fund, Tin Shed Ventures to help start-up companies that place environmental and social returns on equal footing with financial returns. Then, in 2018, Patagonia launched Patagonia Action Works to connect their customers with the environmental actions groups they support1. This sort of influence would not have been possible or even conceived without a clear direction around giving back.
Generously Give to Your Employees
Chouinard’s love of the environment included the work setting as well. This drove many initiatives within the company focusing on the well-being and happiness of employees. A culture of dressing how they wanted, surfing or playing volleyball at lunch, and weekend climbing and ski trips was put in place. They started an open-office concept in 1984 as well as a cafeteria that served healthy, mostly organic food. At the insistence of Chouinard’s wife, Matilda, they even opened an onsite daycare. It was commonplace to see children playing in the yard and families eating lunch together. Happy employees are productive employees!
Chouinard’s vision of healing the earth has illustrated how a strategy of generously giving can have a tremendous impact on life and business.
1. Patagonia website: Company History
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