For many years, Patagonia has been a leader in creative corporate social responsibility strategies. They have fearlessly waded into the deep unknown with experiments regarding supply chain transparency, recycling initiatives, and sustainability practices. Not surprisingly, their Common Threads Initiative is said to enhance eco fashion, raise awareness of clothing waste, and encourage consumers to…buy less?
Yes, Patagonia is encouraging consumers (a word meaning people who consume) to consume less. Uselessers, perhaps?
The Common Threads Initiative has 5 pillars—Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle, and Reimagine—which all include mutual agreements between the company and their customers.
Reduce: Patagonia’s understanding is that while they will create “useful gear that lasts a long time”, you are instructed to not buy things you don’t need, thus reducing the amount of production and consumption.
Repair: While you need to fix non-Patagonia “broken” items yourself, Patagonia will accept their worn, broken, and/or damaged goods, repair them, and send them back to you! The repair cost for items the company feels responsible for will be covered—the damages incurred by “normal wear and tear”, Patagonia will repair and charge a “fair” price.
Reuse: “Nothing wearable should be hoarded,” says Patagonia. Thus, they will donate their “seconds” to “activists working in the field” (cool) and unsold goods to people who have lost their belongings due to natural disasters. That’s truly wonderful corporate citizenship. You need to be a good citizen too, by selling or donating your old or unused clothing and gear.
Recycle: Americans throw away 11.9 million tons of clothing, shoes, and textiles per year, says Patagonia. To help remedy this, Patagonia pledges to take back all of its products that are worn out. In return, you agree to keep your things out of landfills by recycling it.
Reimagine a world where we only take what nature can replace is the tagline Patagonia wants you to hold. This piece is important because it envisions a future of sustainable goods; useful and healthy products and services; and global citizens who are committed to protecting our planet for “those who come after us.”
The last pillar is more than just a feel good end; it’s backed up by the pragmatic, strategic objectives outlined in the previous four pledge points. Patagonia is asking you to join them in their pursuits to consider the environment when you purchase, use, and discard goods. The Patagonia approach is a compelling example of a company inviting consumers to co-create the brand values and identity and, ultimately, a movement for social change. There are inherent risks in giving up some control of the brand experience, and, more importantly, asking customers to buy less, but the upside is authentic, unflappable brand loyalty that can’t be begged, borrowed or stolen by any other means.
Take Patagonia’s pledge here.
Which pillar do you think is easiest to do? Which is the hardest?