Patagonia Wins Online Love for Carbon Positive Push

Kimberly Surico |
 12/11/19 |
5 min read

Patagonia Wins Online Love for Carbon Positive Push

Patagonia is winning online love for its sustainability efforts – most notably, its carbon positive push. And other brands would do well to follow suit. Let’s see why that is!

Patagonia Offers a Unique Value Proposition

What started by climbers and surfers, had a laid-back, minimalist vibe from the beginning and has progressed to what it is today – still a low-key, unconventional company. And one that is now committed to saving the world.

Patagonia committed to saving the world

The interests of people who talk about Patagonia online jibes with this messaging. It includes green living, the outdoors, travel, health and fitness, and interestingly – almost paradoxically – shopping:

Patagonia audience demographics' interests

Though this will all make more sense in a minute.

As a leader in sustainability, Patagonia has a long history fighting consumerism – and ‘fast fashion.’ And in 2011, it’s infamous “Don’t Buy this Jacket” Black Friday ad was a lecture on just that.

Common threads initiative

Battling Consumerism

What does a consumer-facing retailer mean by appearing to not support consumerism? Is it a marketing ploy? Yes, but not in the way you think. It’s meant to draw attention to its push to encourage consumers to buy less. And to accomplish this by buying well-made, quality items that last longer. Patagonia items.

Said items naturally cost a good bit more, but the so-called cult of Patagonia view the trade-off as well worth it.

cult of Patagonia sentiment

They are mostly in love with the brand. And not just for its clothes, although mentions of its clothing dominates the conversation:

real-time conversation about Patagonia

Patagonia’s Pledge

The brand’s five-part pledge clarifies the longevity of consumers’ attraction:

  • REDUCE. Patagonia makes useful gear that lasts a long time, and want consumers to refrain from buying things they don’t need
  • REPAIR. Patagonia helps consumers repair their Patagonia gear, and asks them to pledge to fix what’s broken (instead of throwing an item away and replacing it)
  • REUSE. Patagonia will help consumers find a home for Patagonia gear they no longer need, and asks consumers to make an attempt to sell or pass it on, using sites like eBay
  • RECYCLE. Patagonia will take back its worn-out gear, and needs consumers to pledge to keep their stuff out of the landfill and incinerator
  • REIMAGINE. This is where Patagonia is really leveling up, as they reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.

The “Patagonia mindset” is a powerful commodity that connects all of it.

Patagonia mindset

And now they’ve committed even more. They’re vowing to give mother nature a much-needed assist.

Patagonia’s Carbon-positive Approach

Patagonia not only takes these conversations seriously, but has moved beyond words and even beyond taking a defensive stance to prevent climate damage. Now, they’re hoping to reverse it.

Their “aim is to become carbon positive—taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than we put in, even as our company grows. How? We’re glad you asked. Below are some key steps we’re taking to get us there.

  • We will use only renewable electricity for our Patagonia retail stores, distribution centers, regional and global offices and headquarters by 2020. As of fall 2018, we are at 100 percent renewable electricity in the U.S. and 76 percent globally.
  • We will use only renewable or recycled materials in our products by 2025. As of fall 2018, 51 percent of our materials by weight are renewable or recycled; by fall 2019 we will be at 69 percent.
  • Reduce energy use throughout our supply chain, work with suppliers to convert to renewable energy and invest in renewable energy projects to cover the remainder of our carbon footprint.
  • Using the new Regenerative Organic Certification, expand regenerative organic agriculture as the source of fiber for our apparel and our food for Patagonia Provisions to restore topsoil and capture carbon out of the atmosphere.
  • Invest in other carbon-capture projects, like reforestation, across the globe.
  • Grow our Worn Wear® program and make it a robust business unit that supports various initiatives that encourage reuse, repair and recycling to extend the life of products and reduce their environmental footprint.
  • Double down on grassroots climate action and our support of nonprofits fighting to protect our planet.

Consumer Response

How are consumers responding? Let’s just say they have lots of fans, as their consistently strong Net Sentiment (a measure ranging from -100 to 100) shows:

Patagonia summary metrics and net sentiment

These folks would buy everything from Patagonia if they could:

consumers wishing Patagonia made everything

That leaves lots of space for the brand to expand and capture a more significant piece of the sustainability market around, well, everything.

But they’re not the only brand taking note, of course . . .

Brands Increasingly Focused on Environmental Concerns

If the recent global climate strikes and climate summits attended by world leaders and other international efforts haven’t been enough to clue brands in to the importance of the overarching climate conversation, now is the time to tune in.

According to McKinsey, in its study on the business of sustainability – even in 2011 there was a definite shift: “[T]he share of respondents saying their companies’ top reasons for addressing sustainability include improving operational efficiency and lowering costs jumped 14 percentage points since last year, to 33 percent. This concern for costs replaces corporate reputation as the most frequently chosen reason; at 32 percent, reputation5 is the second most cited reason, followed by alignment with the company’s business goals, mission, or values6 (31 percent) and new growth opportunities (27 percent), which climbed 10 percentage points since last year.”

Brands Have Been Slow to Act

And brands have been slow to act till recent years, but that is all changing of late – in part, because consumers are driving it. They’re more aware of packaging, textile, construction and other pollutants:

global plastic and other waste production stats

And are demanding brands take action. It’s a way to be environmental activists, in a way. They’re doing their part by demanding change – and being the change. Sometimes in odd ways:

people demonstrating commitment to sustainability

Amazon is committing to carbon neutrality by 2040 and is ordering 100,000 electric vehicles to hit the roads by 2024 and investing $100 million in global reforestation projects. Not only that, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, says he’ll recruit other CEOs to commit to change as well.

But that’s still not carbon-positive like bar-setting Patagonia.

Setting the Bar Even Higher This Gift-giving Season

And not to be outdone regardless, with the holidays upon on, Patagonia has consumers covered there too. They’ve come up with the perfect gift for your uncle who doesn’t believe in climate change:

Every gathering has a climate-change denier (or at least a contrarian), so maybe instead of yelling at them about the planet, this provides an opportunity to take the high road. Uncle Pete from Brooklyn doesn’t think we’re in a climate emergency? Now you can donate to The River Project on his behalf. Aunt Sharon from Chicago doesn’t see what all the fuss is about? Put her name on a donation to the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Whatever donations are made, Patagonia will match it dollar for dollar.

That, is the ultimate snub to consumerism. And a bold move that only a Patagonia, after many years of preparation on this precise path, can pull off:

 Patagonia's holiday donation pledge flies in face of consumerism

Other brands, with a less than ‘carbon positive’ strategy will need to step it up. Like Amazon, they’ll need to come up with their own unique nod to sustainability and helping the environment.

Finding Your Brand’s People

Not every target audience will be surfer/climber/green living outdoorsmen with sustainability-driven disposable income. Few will be, actually. But there are endless other segments out there searching for some way to give back to the world – and some smart brands to sell that ‘way’ to them.

Reach out and we’ll help you identify that unique purpose!

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