Sine Institute holds event with Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert discussing Patagonia’s mission for sustainability
Conversation discussed Patagonia's founder's decision to donate his shares of the company to help fight climate change
Yvon Chouinard, founder and former owner of Patagonia, gave away his two percent of stock of the company to the Patagonia Purpose Trust in early September. This trust will oversee and distribute donations to grassroot organizations fighting against climate change.
Following this decision, the Sine Institute of Policy & Politics at American University hosted Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia for a panel discussion and Q&A session addressing the news and discussing Patagonia’s approach to sustainability.
Gellert noted the massive national and international response to Chouinard’s decision: “It has been mind blowing, the traction this story has gotten… I think the reactions are a reflection of times, people need to hear good news right now.”
Gellert summed up Chouinard’s intention to give his stocks away: “This is what I want to accomplish with this business, this is how I have thought about this and this is what is important to me. When we became a billion dollar business some number of years ago, it was the worst day of my life. The truth is, I have never known a billion dollar business that I respect and I sure as hell do not want to own one.”
Moving forward with a fortified commitment to climate change, Patagonia’s goals are to continue improving upon their plan for responsible production, such as their “Cotton Conversion” initiative of 2020. This initiative outlined Patagonias promise to organically harvest their cotton and eliminate synthetic chemicals that harm the environment.
Gellert acknowledged that Patagonia will never reach true sustainability as the goal posts are ever moving and it is the job of businesses to never stop meeting these expectations and doing better.
“We want to put this money to work and make a dent in Environmental Philanthropy while figuring out how to get bigger organizations moving in the same direction,” Gellert said.
Throughout the panel discussion, Gellert reiterated that climate change is an existential crisis, and businesses should do better and be held accountable for their actions. Gellert also acknowledged that Patagonia is an imperfect company but they preach transparency and ownership for their faults.
“It is never lost on us that we make products that people like and want, but we do not make products that people need,” Gellert said, leaning into the imperfect idea of Patagonia in the corporate world.
The conversation wrapped up with a panel discussion where audience members had the opportunity to ask Gellert questions and engage with him in a conversation about the current climate crisis and the recent news surrounding Patagonia.
Wrapping up the panel, Gellert left the audience with one last piece of advice: “Hold businesses and government officials accountable, vote, speak out, educate yourselves and encourage others to do the same.”