The Cleanest Line

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    Trying to Be Responsible – Patagonia Environmental & Social Initiatives 2014

    By Jim Little

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    We just finished our 2014 Environmental & Social Initiatives booklet and would love to share it with you. In it you’ll find a pretty comprehensive accounting of everything Patagonia did this year to conduct ourselves in an environmentally and socially conscious manner. The booklet includes stories about our efforts as a business and as individuals, and a list of all the environmental groups (770 of them working in 16 countries) we helped to support.

    Above are some shots from the booklet’s table of contents to give you a taste of what lies within, and below the fold, an easy to digest number-by-number approach (ala Harper’s Index) that quantifies some of our work. If you’d like to dive in deeper, click the booklet at the end of this post and flip through the pages. We hope you enjoy!

    Photos: (clockwise, top left-right) Eli Steltenpohl, Mikey Schaefer, Lindsay Walker, Tony Clevenger, Ben Knight. Artwork: Amanda Lenz 

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    Patagonia’s Plastic Packaging – A study on the challenges of garment delivery

    By Nellie Cohen & Elissa Loughman

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    Patagonia’s finished goods factories package each individual product we make in a polybag. Some of our direct customers (people who order from our catalog or Patagonia.com) have expressed disappointment in the amount of waste generated by polybags. This customer feedback inspired us to investigate ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated from Patagonia’s product packaging.

    Editor’s note: The tone of today’s post is a bit formal due to its origins as an internal case study. It’s a good look into the workings of our company and the challenging decisions we’re faced with as we try to balance customer satisfaction with environmental impact.

    In order to evaluate how Patagonia can reduce plastic in our supply chain we conducted several tests at our Distribution Center (DC) and surveyed our customers. Through this study, we determined that polybags are critical to insuring that garments stay clean from the finished goods factory through the DC. If we eliminated the use of polybags, garments would be damaged, resulting in both financial and environmental costs. Energy, water and resources are used to make each product and we want them to be worn. A damaged product that is unwearable has a far greater environmental cost than manufacturing a polybag.

    We invite you to read on to see our progress in examining this area of our distribution process and how we’re working through potential ways to lessen our impact going forward, while making sure our products reach you undamaged.

    Above: A look inside the Patagonia DC in Reno, Nevada. Products are picked in the warehouse, sent to packing stations and then to outbound mail via conveyor belts. This system allows us to ship packages with the greatest efficiency, especially during busy periods like sales and holidays. All photos: Nellie Cohen

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    Working for Wildness – Patagonia Environmental Initiatives 2013

    By Yvon Chouinard

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    “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” – Thoreau

    This year, Patagonia will be 40 years old. There is much to celebrate on this anniversary, but what I am proudest of is the support we’ve given the people who do the real work to save wildness: grassroots activists.

    I’m not an activist. I don’t really have the guts to be on the front lines. But I have supported activists ever since a young man gave a slide show in 1972 at a city council meeting in Ventura. What was proposed was an extension of utilities, roads and urban services across the Ventura River to support a planned freeway-related commercial development on the western floodplain near the river’s mouth. A lot of scientists got up to speak in support of the project. They said it wouldn’t hurt the river because it was already “dead.” Mark Capelli, who was a young graduate student and called himself “Friends of the Ventura River,” then gave a slide show showing all the life that was still in the river: eels, birds, raccoons. He pointed out there were still 50 steelhead showing up each year to migrate upstream. That brought the house down. The project was eventually stopped. He showed me what one person can do. He gave me hope. We gave him desk space.

    [Above: After 40 years, we still follow an early vision to protect wilderness for the sake of wilderness. Lost Arrow Spire, Yosemite Valley, California. Photo: Glen Denny]

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    Working Towards Responsible Supply Chains: Our Factory Monitoring Efforts

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    All of us at Patagonia have been shaken by the recent tragic events in Bangladesh. We offer our deepest condolences to all of the victims and their families. We are monitoring the press, the actions of governments around the world in response and the courageous efforts by the charities on the ground. Our stakeholders may ask what Patagonia is doing to monitor its supply chain and help prevent in our partner factories another occurrence of this kind of tragedy.

    Two decades ago we began seriously examining social and environmental issues in our supply chain. The more we learned, the more worried we became. So back in the mid-1990s Patagonia helped create the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a multi-stakeholder initiative whose sole purpose is to promote fair, safe and healthy conditions in factories worldwide. The FLA has been auditing our factories since the early 2000s and our own Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program since 2008. Regular supplier auditing, training and education by committed brands has, in part, eradicated child labor and some forms of forced labor as well as led to minor improvements in health and safety.

    We fully recognize that some factories over the past 10 years have stepped up to the plate to do everything responsible brands do in their CSR efforts, including CSR reporting. Unfortunately, these exemplary factories are few and far between. We are constantly searching the globe to find them. When we do, we put them through our rigorous screening process before we place the first order. You can find sketches of many of these factories on Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles.

    [Above: Shane Prukop, president of Trupart Manufacturing in Ventura, California, shows Patagonia’s Social and Environmental Responsibility team the River Crampon he makes for our company. Photo: Jim Little]

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    Wooly in Patagonia

    by Jim Little, Patagonia Creative Services

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    We have some great benefits at Patagonia. But none is better than the opportunity to volunteer with environmental groups through our internship program. During my 15 years working as an editor here at our headquarters in Ventura, I’ve gotten to follow wild buffalo in West Yellowstone, see the effects of industrial forestry in Chile, learn about the sagebrush environment in northern Nevada, and most recently, spend two weeks in Patagonia, Argentina, working with The Nature Conservancy on its grasslands project.

    Sheep ranching is the most prevalent land use in the Patagonia region, which is three times the size of California and mostly privately owned. Overgrazing is turning its grasslands into desert. To reverse the degradation, preserve biodiverstiy and freshwater resources, Patagonia has partnered with The Nature Conservancy and Ovis XXI, an Argentine company that manages and develops a network of wool producers.

    [Above: A gaucho and his border collie head to their flock.]

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    Well to Wheel - UCSB Grad Students Evaluate Patagonia’s Transportation Practices & Opportunities

    Footprint_chroniclesOver the years, Patagonia has focused a tremendous amount of time and energy on finding ways to reduce the impacts of our business operations. Through life cycle analyses of our clothing and gear, we’ve learned that most of the environmental impacts come from growing or synthesizing the fibers and manufacturing the fabrics. But until recently, we hadn’t conducted an in-depth analysis on the impacts of our transportations systems or the potential to integrate alternative fuel technologies into those systems.

    That changed in April 2012, when we began working with a group of graduate students from UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. As part of their studies, they are conducting a research project that will evaluate how we transport goods in the US and explore the possible use of more environmentally friendly fuels. Patagonia does not own a transportation fleet; instead we contract with companies that specialize in distribution and transportation to ship our products. We asked the students to investigate ways we can integrate low-carbon fuels into our transportation network. By doing so, we hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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    What We Do For a Living - An Excerpt from "The Responsible Company"

    by Yvon Chouinard & Vincent Stanley

    New PictureWe are still in the earliest stages of learning how what we do for a living both threatens nature and fails to meet our deepest human needs. The impoverishment of our world and the devaluing of the priceless undermine our physical and economic well-being.

    Yet the depth and breadth of technological innovation of the past few decades shows that we have not lost our most useful gifts: humans are ingenious, adaptive, clever. We also have moral capacity, compassion for life, and an appetite for justice. We now need to more fully engage these gifts to make economic life more socially just and environmentally responsible, and less destructive to nature and the commons that sustain us.

    This book aims to sketch, in light of our environmental crisis and economic sea change, the elements of business responsibility for our time, when everyone in business at every level has to deal with the unintended consequences of a 200-year-old industrial model that can no longer be sustained ecologically, socially, or financially.

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    Introducing the New Footprint Chronicles on Patagonia.com

    by Lisa Polley

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    As an employee of Patagonia for the past 12 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many projects. Some of these have been interesting, some just a necessary part of my job. Never have I experienced a project with such a direct impact on the company, on its employees and on myself as The Footprint Chronicles website.

    It’s given me hope about the future for the first time in longer than I care to admit.

    The epiphany that inspired this hope came during data entry. Sometimes the process of change starts in the mundane, and growth occurs at the oddest, unexpected moments. Anyone who’s filled a database knows that the task is not hard, but it requires headphones and very loud music. My task was to enter the data that would be used to geo-locate points on a Google map so we could show our supply chain online.

    [Above: Seeing Patagonia suppliers pinned on a world map, one of the new additions to The Footprint Chronicles. Screengrab: Patagonia.com]

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    Patagonia Clothing: Made Where? How? Why?

    Patagonia_labelAbout once a week, one of our stores or our customer service receives a question about the manufacturing of Patagonia clothing: Where do you make your clothes? Are they made in China? Why? Why don’t make you make them here in the United States? What are the conditions inside your factories?

    We thought it would be helpful if we shared a lengthy post, with links to more information.

    First, Patagonia doesn’t own farms, mills, or factories. Yet what is done in our name is not invisible to us. We are responsible for all the workers who make our goods and for all that goes into a piece of clothing that bears a Patagonia label.

    It took us a long time to ask ourselves what we owe people who work for others in our supply chain. We had high sewing standards, even for casual sportswear, and exacting standards for technical clothes. To meet quality requirements, our production staff had always been drawn to clean, well-lighted factories that employed experienced sewing operators. Although we had always bargained with our factories over price and terms, we never chased lowest-cost labor.

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    Claim It: There is No Green Wetsuit

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    Want to know what's up with this ad? Continue reading to learn why we don't use bamboo fabrics in our wetsuits.

     

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