The Cleanest Line

Weblog for the employees, friends and customers of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. Visit Patagonia.com to see what we do.

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    Patagonia Footwear Partners Team Up to Inspect Factories

    L1020481 Patagonia has been working with Wolverine World Wide (WWW) for four years to build a successful line of hiking boots, lifestyle and multi-sport shoes, sandals and more. We rely heavily on WWW’s experience making footwear – an extremely complicated process – but stay involved in every step of the process.

    That’s why members of Patagonia’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team recently traveled to China to check out our shoe factories. Social and Environmental Responsibility Director Cara Chacon and Social and Environmental Responsibility Analyst Julie Netzky toured all five of our footwear factories to get to know WWW’s CSR team and learn about their program.

    “The week-long factory visits were really important for both brands to benchmark our CSR programs, share best practices and knowledge and move the factories forward on compliance,” said Cara, who has spent 11 years auditing over 1,000 factories and helping brands improve their CSR programs.

    They toured the factories and onsite dormitories, with WWW’s Corporate Responsibility Director Jim Musial and Human Rights Manager Allen Chen, to review remediation efforts from recent audits and observe labor, environmental health and safety conditions as part of their routine factory visits.

    [Auditors inspect one of Wolverine World Wide's factories to ensure proper storage of chemicals with secondary containment. Photo: Cara Chacon]

    Continue reading "Patagonia Footwear Partners Team Up to Inspect Factories" »

    Beyond Factory Audits with the FLA

    Cara Audit Photo No one likes to be audited – even those who spend their lives auditing other people. Our Social and Environmental Responsibility Director Cara Chacon was reminded of that fact when she was suddenly informed last June that the Fair Labor Association (FLA) would be paying Patagonia a visit the following week.

    Cara found out about the visit when she ran into some representatives of the FLA at a member meeting in Washington, D.C. The FLA is a nonprofit comprised of companies, universities and civil organizations dedicated to improving working conditions around the world and have established a reputation for the highest auditing standards. The reps didn’t say it was actually an audit, however, Cara was suspicious.

    [Patagonia Social and Environmental Responsibility Director, Cara Chacon, participates in a vendor audit. Photo: Julie Netzsky]

    Continue reading "Beyond Factory Audits with the FLA" »

    Conspiracy or Transparency?

    For the past nine weeks I’ve been taking a course in fiction writing. As part of the class, we write short stories and critique each other’s finished works.  The other night we critiqued a classmate’s story about a woman who worked for a corporation that took extreme measures – from forcing employees to sign far-reaching confidentiality agreements to installing cameras on campus – to protect its secrets.

    As with other stories, we eventually got around to discussing the believability of this one. I thought the level of secrecy at the company was a bit overdone (and not intended to be), but my classmates reached an unusual consensus on this point: it was a very realistic portrayal. They agreed that regardless of the size of the corporation or the type of industry, executives spared no expense to keep information from the public, and even from employees.

    The discussion reminded me of this widely held perception. It also reminded me of the purpose of a project I’ve been working on for Patagonia – to increase the transparency of our work.

    Footprint That project – The Footprint Chronicles – puts this notion about corporations and transparency to the test more than any other I’ve worked on. It originated from the belief, citing Socrates’ philosophy on leading an examined life, that we need to continuously learn about ourselves in order to lessen our own footoprint. It also grew from the belief that by sharing what we learned with the public, we would earn customer confidence and inspire other businesses to be more transparent, too.

    Continue reading "Conspiracy or Transparency? " »

    Patagonia Environmental Initiatives 2010 E-Book - Flip Through Our Year-in-Review

    Enviro_book_F10_cover
    Enviro_videos_F10

    Working to protect and restore the natural world can be a dynamic endeavor. To capture the energy that goes into this work, we bring you an enhanced electronic version of our Patagonia Environmental Initiatives 2010 booklet.

    View a fireside chat with Patagonia founder and environmentalist-in-chief Yvon Chouinard, accompany world-renowned photographer Florian Schulz as he sheds light on the beauty and struggles of the Arctic, and connect with other activists’ stories through powerful videos and images. Our new e-booklet does all this without sacrificing a forest full of trees.

    Come get inspired and learn how you can join the fight.

    Launch Patagonia Environmental Initiatives 2010 E-Book

    (Please be patient, the initial load time can be slow)

    [A wolf carries one of the dozen salmon she caught in less than an hour during the July salmon run. Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska. Photo: Paul Stinsa]

    Continue reading "Patagonia Environmental Initiatives 2010 E-Book - Flip Through Our Year-in-Review" »

    What is Quality for Our Time? - Watch part 3 of our Footprint Chronicles video series

    Writing about Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles for the blog Greenovate, Michael Hurwitz states, “While many companies are, of course, implementing transparency initiatives, Patagonia’s project is more or less unprecedented, because of the size of the company as well as the fact that it originated from customer demand.” After over three years of steady work on our Footprint Chronicles video series, Mr. Hurwitz's comment was a good reminder to look up from our work, take a breather, and scan the horizon. 

    A lot has changed since we launched the Footprint Chronicles in 2007. The business landscape has taken on a greener cast, but our digging and research has shown us that reforming and refining business practices to be less environmentally harmful is difficult and incredibly lengthy process with a fantastically complicated web of interconnections, akin to John Muir's observation that "[w]hen we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

    Can a good product be made in a bad factory? We talk to business people and teachers about a contemporary definition of quality that includes social and environmental responsibility ­ and every process involved in the creation of a product.

    Watch all three installments of our video series in the "Digging Deeper" section of the Footprint Chronicles.

    Competitors Working Together Toward A Common Environmental Good

    Bluesign Logo It’s rare when industry competitors get together to collaborate. It’s even more unusual when they get together to discuss ways they can lessen their environmental impact. Yet that’s what happened as a result of our relationship with bluesign® technologies, an independent third party that screens the dyeing and finishing of textiles.

    We recently met with other outdoor companies, including brands like MEC, REI and The North Face, at REI's Seattle offices to find ways to spread the benefits of bluesign membership. We discussed ways to educate other brands, encourage manufacturers and demonstrate how environmental progress can be rewarding and beneficial for all parties involved. Since we were all working toward the same environmental goals in our supply chains, working together was helpful for everyone. “By 5pm my brain was fried, but I was happy that we had accomplished a lot,” said participant Todd Copeland, Patagonia’s Strategic Environmental Materials Developer. “I realized other brands struggle as we do to do the right thing in a competitive industry and an uncertain economy.”

    When Patagonia started our relationship with bluesign technologies, we knew we had found something good to help our understanding of environmental chemistry. I first met its founder, Peter Waeber, in 2000...

    Continue reading "Competitors Working Together Toward A Common Environmental Good" »

    From the Trenches series - Why don't you use...?

    Trenches

    Our Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are our front line of communication with Patagonia fanatics far and wide. The crew here at our Call Center in Reno, NV are at it seven days a week, taking orders, helping with returns, and most importantly, answering the astonishing range of questions our customers fire at us. Like flocks of swirling swallows or shimmering schools of tropical fish, our customers swoop in with mysteriously synchronized concerns and questions on a regular basis, prompting the need for ready answers. Times like these, nothing would be more handy than magically beaming knowledge out into the ether. Our very own Old School is here to do just that. He's stepped back from the front lines to answer some of these popular questions, straight from the trenches.
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    In my last post, I tackled a couple of "Why do you use . . .?” questions. In this post, I'll answer a couple of "Why don't you use . . .?" questions. Being a company known for environmentalism, we often get questions about why we don't use certain fabrics, especially when other companies tout them as being the latest and greatest, or at least the ‘greenest.’ In the cases of bamboo and PLA (polylactic acid), both sound pretty green at first glance but in the end aren't all that they seem.

    Continue reading "From the Trenches series - Why don't you use...?" »

    From the Trenches series - Why do you use... ?

    Trenches

    Our Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are our front line of communication with Patagonia fanatics far and wide. The crew here at our Call Center in Reno, NV are at it seven days a week, taking orders, helping with returns, and most importantly, answering the astonishing range of questions our customers fire at us. Like flocks of swirling swallows or shimmering schools of tropical fish, our customers swoop in with mysteriously synchronized concerns and questions on a regular basis, prompting the need for ready answers. Times like these, nothing would be more handy than magically beaming knowledge out into the ether. Our very own Old School is here to do just that. He's stepped back from the front lines to answer some of these popular questions, straight from the trenches.
    ___________________________________________________________

    Patagonia has a well-deserved reputation for being extremely picky about what materials go into our products. Often, the materials we choose are exactly the same as those used by our competitors. But just as often, we insist on different materials even if we have to encourage our suppliers to make the material we're looking for. Below are two common questions we receive about natural fibers we use in our clothing; one is virtually identical industry-wide and the other is a fabric we insisted on tweaking because of environmental concerns.

     

    So why do you use down?

     

    Feather

    In the outdoor clothing industry down insulation is ubiquitous. Almost every company sells a puffy down jacket and I often wonder if these other companies get the same ethical questions we get about using down. We continually find ourselves fielding questions about how a progressive company like Patagonia can, in good conscience, use down. The answer to that is simple, Patagonia’s mission statement begins with "Build the best product..." For us to do this we need to use the highest quality materials available. Right now when it comes to insulation, down has no equal; it has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any insulation and is highly compressible as well. Both properties are highly prized attributes in mountain clothing. That said, we do believe in the humane treatment of animals, and the geese that provide our down are no exception.

    Continue reading "From the Trenches series - Why do you use... ?" »

    Footprint Chronicles Gets Freshened Up for Fall

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    We’ve just updated the Footprint Chronicles, our interactive mini-site we use to share information about how and where our products are manufactured, what the environmental costs are and how we think the process can be improved.

    There are a number of new features in today's Footprint update but the highlight is the release of the second in a three-part video series dedicated to investigating the issues of social and environmental responsibility and product quality. Our first documentary explored social responsibility and offshore manufacturing. Our new installment, What Comes Next?, explores environmental responsibility in the Patagonia supply chain.

    Our latest installment also includes three newly chronicled items – a recycled fleece jacket, synthetic high-loft insulation, and a waterproof/breathable jacket. Together, these new additions to the Chronicles take us deeper into our Footprint investigations by illustrating how trying to do the right thing creates its own set of environmental challenges.

    Make the jump for a full list of features in our new Footprint Chronicles.

    Continue reading "Footprint Chronicles Gets Freshened Up for Fall " »

    My Footprint series - Learning by Osmosis

    Series intro: The “My Footprint” series shares the stories of Patagonia friends and employees who have been inspired by The Footprint Chronicles, and whose inspiring lives help fuel the vision of what we can do as a company.

    Their stories are offered here, glimpses of individual footprints spotted along the path toward positive change. We invite you to enjoy these personal accounts, and share your own in the Comments section included with these posts.
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    My wife and I turned a blind eye for a long time to the rainbows swirling in our coffee mugs as we sipped in the morning light. They looked kinda cool, but we knew their cause was probably not. We could see a film on top of the water that reminded me of the gutter puddles my sister and I used to stomp in when it rained where we grew up in Los Angeles. The water also had a slightly funky taste and silky texture, regardless of whether it ran through a Britta filter.

    For a couple years we shrugged it off, telling ourselves it was probably from the hard water in the area. Articles in the local Ventura County Star suggested the area’s water quality was okay, despite an occasional “musty or earthy taste and smell” from the seasonal migration of algae in the reservoir. I surely appreciate the rhythms of nature, and even a bit of earth and must in my cuisine, but it was more difficult to brush aside our doubts about the pipes in the early 20th century house we were renting, complete with built-in ironing board and dumbwaiter in the kitchen, and our kind-but-parsimonious landlord.

    Continue reading "My Footprint series - Learning by Osmosis" »

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