The Values of Patagonia
This letter was written by Jerry Mander and presented to the board of directors after a crises in 1991, which led to the company laying off 120 staff and seriously rethinking their direction for the future—making it the Patagonia® we know and love today.
We begin with the premise that all life on Earth is facing a critical time, during which survivability will be the issue that increasingly dominates public concern. Where survivability is not the issue, the quality of human experience of life may be, as well as the decline in health of the natural world as reflected in the loss of biodiversity, cultural diversity, and the planet’s life support systems.
The root cause of this situation include basic values embodied in our economic system, including the values of the corporate world. Primary among the problematic corporate values are the primary of expansion and short-term profit over such other considerations as quality, sustainability, environmental and human health, and successful communities.
The fundamental goal of this corporation is to operate in such a manner that we are fully aware of the above conditions, and attempt to reorder the hierarchy of corporate values, while producing products that enhance both human and environmental conditions.
To help achieve these changes, we will make our operating decisions based on the following list of values. They are not presented in order of importance. All are equally important. They represent an “ecology” of values that must be emphasised in economic activity that can mitigate the environmental and social crisis of our times.
All decisions of the company are made in the context of the environmental crisis. We must strive to do no harm. Wherever possible, our acts should serve to decrease the problem. Our activities in this area will be under constant evaluation and reassessment as we seek constant improvement.
Maximum attention is given to product quality, as defined by durability, minimum use of natural resources (including materials, raw energy, and transport), multifunctionalism, nonobsolescence, and the kind of beauty that emerges from absolute suitability to task. Concern over transitory fashion trends is specifically not a corporate value.
The board and management recognize that successful communities are part of a sustainable environment. We consider ourselves to be an integral part of communities that also include our employees, the communities in which we live, our suppliers and customers. We recognize our responsibilities to all these relationships and make our decisions with their general benefit in mind. It is our policy to employ people who share the fundamental values of this corporation, while representing cultural and ethnic diversity.
Without giving its achievement primacy, we seek to profit on our activities. However, growth and expansion are values not basic to this corporation.
To help mitigate any negative environmental consequence of our business activity, we impose on ourselves an annual tax of 1 percent of our gross sales, or 10 percent of profits, whichever is greater. All proceeds of this tax are granted to local community and environmental activism.
At all levels of operation—board, management, and staff—Patagonia encourages proactive stances that reflect our values. These include activities that influence the larger corporate community to also adjust its values and behaviour, and that support, through activism and financially, grassroots and national campaigners who work to solve the current environmental and social crisis.
In our internal operations, top management will work as a group, and with maximum transparency. This includes an ”open book” policy that enables employees easy access to decisions, within normal boundaries of personal privacy and ”trade secrecy”. At all levels of corporate activity, we encourage open communications, a collaborative atmosphere, and maximum simplicity, while we simultaneously seek dynamism and innovation.