September 15, 2022
The Earth is our shareholder. It is such a simple idea. So true. So obvious.
We have always admired Patagonia, but never more so than today. They have been pioneering a planet and people first business since 1973. Yvon Chouinard, the rock climber / surfer / founder, has just announced something extraordinary in terms of the wider business landscape but completely in line with his entire career.
Rather than sell the company or list the company on the stock market the Chouinard family are transferring their ownership of the company (valued at about $3 billion) to a group of trusts and not-for-profits that will maintain the company's independence and more importantly guarantee that all of its profits are used to fight climate change, and in Yvon's words, 'to save our home planet'.
Elvis & I have been discussing this all morning. Yvon never behaved like a billionaire, yes, he owned the company, but he didn't live like a king, the value stayed in the company, the company he no longer owns. Elvis said - isn't this what we are doing? Have always done? And the answer is kind of, well yes...
The walls of our straw bale workshop... before the lime render.
Most of you who will read this know that we have always donated 50% of our profits to our charity partners, mainly the Firefighters Charity and Barefoot College. But what about the other 50%? Well, here you go, the other half of the story.
1. Savings. We have always wanted to stay independent, to not require shareholders or debt or anything that could diminish our environmental or social goals. So we saved up to give us a buffer in order to maintain this kind of independence.
2. Re-investment. We started with just one material, decommissioned fire-hose, but now we rescue more than 10 materials and do all kinds of pioneering R&D work. We are constantly taking on new material challenges.
Tea sack transformed into packaging; we have more planned for these too!
3. Fighting Climate Change. For many years we have been trying to work out how we could actually be a net regenerative business. How could we provide net benefits to society and the environment? How could we actively foster biodiversity and fight climate change?
Our answer was regenerative agriculture. We moved to New Barns Farm in December 2020 and started planning. We planted a regenerative agriculture vineyard and the rest of the site is really taking shape. This is a long-term project, being regenerative from Day 1 is labour intensive and expensive and we won't have returns for years. Elvis & Kresse is investing in this. If we are right this farm will not only help us to sequester carbon (tree planting, building soil health) but we have designed it to be a hub, a place where we can share everything we are learning about renewable energy, sustainable construction, rainwater harvesting, wetlands, sewage treatment, compost, compost tea, cover cropping, agroforestry, beneficial insects, and the unbelievably complicated world beneath our feet, in our soil. We are only managing one small farm, but if our experiment works and we share all our data, maybe we can help to convince other farmers and landowners and consumers of farmed goods (so yes, everyone who eats food), that there is a regenerative way to live with the land.
Sheep grazing in our vineyard, they are our only fertiliser.
We aren't Patagonia, we are much much smaller than they are, but guess what, we operate in exactly the same way. I am so glad that Yvon's news has made so many headlines; it will certainly make life easier for us and all of the other founders and entrepreneurs out there who have devoted their lives to 'saving our home planet'.
The final pond in our wetland system... waste water becomes bathing water.
PS: If you don't know the Patagonia story or brand then please - dive in.