What would Yvon do?

Posted by Liz May 9th, 2013

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All this horrible news about crumbling factories in Bangladesh has me thinking: why can’t more companies be like Patagonia? Last fall I had the honor of interviewing Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard for Inc Magazine. He is old school in the best possible way: he does not email and only recently got a cell phone after he found himself stranded at an airport and discovered pay phones are obsolete. But he also believes things should last and that people would prefer to pay a little more for high quality products that don’t hurt anyone or anything in their making. One of my favorite quotes from that story was, “Every time I made the right decision for the planet, I made money.” Chouinard sees himself as a steward of our planet, and its people too. And he firmly believes it makes good business sense. This is why he is pushing for more companies to adhere to a consumer sustainability index where, “you’ll be able to look at a pair of jeans in a department store and see a grade on them which includes its carbon footprint and the factory’s working conditions.” He has always believed in full transparency: check out the Footprint Chronicles if you want to know how many gallons of water it took to make one t-shirt. Or how many women worked at the factory where your sweater was made. And before you buy that next pair of jeans, check to see if the company that made them is a member of The Fair Labor Organization or is committed to Sustainable Practices. Imagine if EVERY apparel company was this transparent? Last count, 800 people died in the Bangladesh collapse: its not just the building owner with blood on his hands, but the companies that chose to work with him, and the customers who go for price over quality. Not only of the product itself, but of the lives making those products, too.

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