Have you heard of Yvon Chouinard? I don’t remember anymore how I came across his name the other day but I was quite impressed and after doing some research I was so even more. I’m really entirely fascinated by him and his life ad work. He’s one of those people who pursue their pleasure and passion and manage to make their living out of it and at the same time do something to make this world a better place.
Chouinard is a legendary climber, a passionate surfer, environmentalist and (outdoor industry) businessman.
He’s the founder of (among others) the company Patagonia (that might ring a bell – it’s one of the biggest high-end outdoor clothing companies) a company which is known for its environmental focus and he’s also the author of ‘Let my people go surfing’- The education of a reluctant businessman – and even though I’m not in the slightest a business woman I’m quite intrigued to read it.
As a passionate climber Chouinard started already in his young years to make his equipment on his own, to improve it in order to protect and not damage the rocks (which was known as clean climbing) and finally made a business out of it. The particularity is that in what he’s doing he was and still is lead by his passion for nature and outdoors and not the pursuit of money which makes all the difference.
The way Patagonia is doing its business has gained attention not just for it’s unorthodox style, but because it works.
an excerpt of his book
I’VE BEEN A BUSINESSMAN for almost 50 years. It’s as difficult for me to say those words as it is for someone to admit to being an alcoholic or a lawyer.
I’ve never respected the profession. It’s business that has to take the majority of the blame for being the enemy of nature, for destroying native cultures, for taking from the poor and giving to the rich, and for poisoning the earth with the effluent from its factories. Yet business can produce food, cure disease, control population, employ people, and generally enrich our lives. And it can do these good things and make a profit without losing its soul.
Since I had never wanted to be a businessman, I needed a few good reasons to be one. One thing I did not want to change, even if we got serious: Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. We all had to come to work on the balls of our feet and go up the stairs two steps at a time. We needed to be surrounded by friends who could dress whatever way they wanted, even be barefoot. We all needed flextime to surf the waves when they were good or ski the powder after a big snowstorm or stay home and take care of a sick child. We needed to blur the distinction between work and play and family.
Indeed, Patagonia was one of the first companies in the US who provided on-site child care for the children of their employees.
In the 90’s they revealed that industrially grown cotton was probably the worst product for the environment (it uses 25% of the world’s pesticide insecticide with occupying only 3% of the world’s farmland). After only 2 years the company committed itself to using only pesticide-free cotton for their products. (go to min. 39 of his speech)
Listen to his great speech at the University of California where he talks about his personal history, how he created Patagonia, and the philosophy he uses to run the company. He discusses how he has tried to minimize Patagonia’s impact on the environment, such as making fleece clothing from recycled soda bottles. He also talks about his One Percent for the Planet plan in which participating businesses contribute at least 1% of their net annual sales to groups on a list of researched and approved environmental organizations.
(even only listening to the last 15 min. gives you a good idea of his work and philosophy)
I wish there would be more entrepreneurs like Chouinard, we definitely need more of them!
I want to believe (like Tina Roth Eisenberg said) that (business) success can be built on respect, kindness and decisions that don’t always come down to money and that you don’t have to be ruthless and unethical in order to run a successful business.
PS. Maggie, sis, I think that’s the company where you should work – honestly! California, their cause and surfing is part of their working philosophy!