Patagonia founder gives away entire company to fight climate change


Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and his family—who made a 10-figure fortune from his outdoor outfitter empire—have relinquished their ownership of the 49-year-old company, transferring it to trusts and non-profit organisations and pledging Wednesday to redirect Patagonia’s future profits toward fighting climate change.
Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, smiling as he walks at night through New York City.
Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia. | Image source: Getty Images

“Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” Chouinard told the New York Times, which first reported the news. “We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.”

We estimated Chouinard to be worth US$1.2 billion before he relinquished control of the company. He is no longer a billionaire.

The Chouinard family’s decision to give up the company was partly set in motion when Forbes listed Chouinard as a billionaire, he told the New York Times. His inclusion on the list “really pissed me off,” he said, because he didn’t have US$1 billion in the bank and doesn’t “drive Lexuses.” Forbes first included Chouinard in its lists in 2017 based on the value of Patagonia, not the cash in his bank account.

Chouinard, who founded Patagonia in 1973, is a longtime environmentalist, and for years his company has donated 1% of sales to grassroots activists. The company was one of a handful that continued to pay employees amid Covid-19 store closures, and in 2018 Patagonia donated an additional US$10 million to organizations fighting climate change, a sum it said it saved after former President Donald Trump lowered the corporate tax rate, which the company called “irresponsible.” Last year, Patagonia announced the company would stop selling its popular vests with corporate logos because their inclusion in a design “reduces the life span of a garment, often by a lot, for trivial reasons.” In 2011, Patagonia ran a Black Friday ad in the New York Times asking customers not to buy its products, and to instead reuse or repair items they already own.

Further Reading

From Climber To Billionaire: How Yvon Chouinard Built Patagonia Into A Powerhouse His Own Way (Forbes)

Patagonia’s Billionaire Founder To Give Away The Millions His Company Saved From Trump’s Tax Cuts To Save The Planet (Forbes)

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