Additional contributions by Steve Mazzucchi
For just shy of 50 years, Patagonia has been a symbol in the outdoor industry and in the mainstream zeitgeist as a symbol of how to do capitalism differently. The certified B Corporation is a member of 1% for the Planet, and has a history of being recognized for its product quality and environmental activism. Today, the brand has taken another noteworthy step down that path: Patagonia announced that the company’s eclectic and forward-thinking founder Yvon Chouinard and his family have transferred all ownership to two new entities, Patagonia Purpose Trust and the Holdfast Collective.
Through this change in ownership, every dollar that is not reinvested back into Patagonia will be distributed as dividends to protect the planet. It’s a powerful move by one of the most well-known brands in the country to demonstrate a responsible way to be a for-profit company.
Here’s how it will work: the Patagonia Purpose Trust, which creates a permanent legal structure to continue Patagonia’s purpose and values, now owns all the voting stock of the company (two percent of the total stock). The Holdfast Collective owns all the nonvoting stock (98 percent of the total stock), and it will use every dollar received from Patagonia to continue the missions of the brand: protect the natural environment, support communities and fight the environmental crisis.
Each year, profits that are not reinvested back into the business will be distributed by Patagonia as a dividend to the Holdfast Collective to help fight the climate crisis. The company projects that it will pay out an annual dividend of roughly $100 million, depending on the health of the business.
Although the Chouinard family has given up its ownership of Patagonia, they’ll still be heavily involved in the brand. The Patagonia Purpose trust will overseen by members of the family and their closest advisers, and they’ll also guide the philanthropic work performed by the Holdfast Collective.
Yvon Chouinard, 84, said of the transition, “It’s been a half-century since we began our experiment in responsible business. If we have any hope of a thriving planet 50 years from now, it demands all of us doing all we can with the resources we have. As the business leader I never wanted to be, I am doing my part. Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth, we are using the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source. We’re making Earth our only shareholder. I am dead serious about saving this planet.”
It seems fitting that in a world where billionaires talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, that one of the seminal figures in the outdoor industry is leading the charge in trying to effect lasting, positive change on the natural world and planet.
The company shared the news first with its employees in a global town hall event on September 14, 2022. Visitors to the brand’s website will now see an update that states that Earth is now our only shareholder, and can read a letter from founder Yvon Chouinard.