Patagonia has made political action a part of its brand presence in the marketplace for some time, but a recent announcement by the company may be the most extreme example to date. Patagonia recently said it would take the $10 million it saved thanks to recent tax cuts and invest those funds in environmental causes.
In a communication that has been called “scathing” by some in the media, Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario described the tax cuts from which her company benefitted “irresponsible” while criticizing the government’s response to climate change. As a result, Marcario said, her company was putting its money where its message has been: “Instead of putting the money back into our business, we’re responding by putting $10 million back into the planet. Our home planet needs it more than we do…”
The statement, posted on LinkedIn, drew lots of attention, and Patagonia spokespeople were quick to add that this larger donation would be made “in addition to” the “One Percent for the Planet” pledge the company has been making for more than three decades.
This decision to make such a public statement is both part of who the company is and who the brand wishes people to see it being. Fans of Patagonia are more likely to care about environmental causes and protecting natural beauty… that’s the thinking behind decisions such as this one. These consumers will appreciate this multi-million-dollar gesture and signal their appreciation with their buying decisions. At least, that’s the company’s hope.
Part of that hope is being distilled into multiple narratives. Instead of donating all the money to one specific organization or effort, the company plans to invest in multiple different “groups committed to protecting air, land, and water, as well as finding solutions to the climate crisis…”
In this way, Patagonia can remain in the news cycle as an environmentally active company committed to supporting many different efforts that directly connect with its core customer base’s interests and socio-political concerns. And the political nature of this narrative appears inescapable at this time. It’s no coincidence that the announcement was made the same week President Trump told reporters he wasn’t convinced of the conclusions that came from his own administration’s report on the climate.
Patagonia’s message was clearly meant to be a counter-narrative as well as a counterpoint to those statements. This will, clearly, not win Patagonia any fans among the dedicated Trump voter base, but it’s clear the company isn’t worried about that. They have made a calculated decision to put out a message that, while not inherently divisive, is patently definitive. The company has drawn a $10 million line in the sand and effectively asked, “Who’s with us?”