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Radical Purpose: Patagonia's Secret Messages

Joost Minnaar
Written by Joost Minnaar October 07, 2020

Last month, Patagonia customers began finding the message "Vote the assholes out" sown into labels on their clothes. Pictures of these went viral on social media. Many wondered if this latest protest against climate change deniers was real.

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Soon after, Patagonia confirmed they were: "The tags are real, because we have been standing up to climate deniers for almost as long as we've been making those shorts."

Vote the assholes out

The statement "Vote the assholes out" is not really new for Patagonia. Founder Yvon Chouinard used this catchphrase before against those who deny climate change, or are ignorant of the science.

When it comes to politics, Patagonia has been even more outspoken recently—calling out politicians opposed to their views on environmental issues, and expressed in their new mission statement as: "We're in business to save our home planet." We experienced this first hand four years ago, at Patagonia's headquarters in Ventura, California.

In our book we wrote: "Our visit coincides with election time (2016 presidential elections, Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton), and the Patagonia people are getting involved. 'Vote Our Planet' is their campaign motto, set up by employees but embraced by all. The goal is to motivate Americans and nudge them in the right direction. Patagonia has made $1 million available to support candidates that advocate clean water, clean air and sustainable energy.’’

Radical Purpose: Patagonia's Secret Messages
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After our visit, the company closed for the day.

“We want to encourage employees and customers to vote”, Chipper (Patagonia's receptionist-cum-gatekeeper) explains. Not much later we hear his voice boom over the intercom: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I wish all a wonderful day. Tomorrow is important, and I am asking you for a small favour: Don’t forget to vote! Every single one will count.’

Shortly after our visit, Patagonia again walks the talk by donating its 2016 Black Friday sales — a record $10 million — to environmental groups. Every cent. In doing so, they support hundreds of non-profits. This kind of action makes Patagonia more than a brand. It’s a social advocate for the change it wants to see, to make a difference and influence consumer choices and responsibilities."

Walking the talk

And they haven't been quiet since. They have reinforced their position as one of the most vocal brands about the unwillingness of some (especially politicians) to take climate change seriously.

In 2017, Patagonia sued the Trump administration in an effort to protect American national parks claiming: "The President Stole Your Land", and donated its tax-cut cash directly to grass-roots environmental groups.

Last year the company stopped selling its iconic outdoor vest to financial firms, religious groups and companies they view as supporting ecologically damaging activities (like oil drilling and mining).

It changed its corporate sales policies, declaring that only companies with a charity element (or committed to supporting community causes or the environment) are welcome as new corporate clients.

Division

This latest, and maybe most extreme political stand by Patagonia has gone too far for some. They claim Patagonia's political messaging is reason enough to rid their closet of everything Patagonian.

To be clear. We, and many others, love their newest stunt of environmental activism.

What do you think? Was it a ‘bridge too far’ this time?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Written by Joost Minnaar
Joost Minnaar
Co-founder Corporate Rebels. My daily focus is on research, writing, and anything else related to making work more fun.
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