Founder of Patagonia gives away company to help fight climate change

Billionaire founder of outdoor clothing giant Patagonia transfers family’s ownership of the company to a trust that will funnel all profits into fighting climate change

  • Founder of adventure clothing giant Patagonia is giving away the company 
  • Ownership of the business will transfer to a non-profit organisation and trust 
  • Patagonia will still be run for profit but cash will go entirely to environmentalism 

The billionaire founder of outdoor apparel brand Patagonia is giving away the company to a trust that will use its profit to fight the climate crisis.

Yvon Chouinard, 83, said on Wednesday that instead of selling the company or taking it public, he would transfer his family’s ownership to the trust and a non-profit organization.

Chouinard became famous for alpine climbs in Yosemite National Park and has a net worth of $1.2 billion. 

‘Each year, the money we make after reinvesting in the business will be distributed as a dividend to help fight the crisis,’ he wrote in an open letter on the company’s website.

‘Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.’ 

Patagonia will now be owned by Patagonia Purpose Trust while non-voting stock goes to the Holdfast Collective and all profits invested in environmental causes

Founder Yvon Chouinard (pictured), a pioneering rock climber, established the company in the 1970s in California 

Patagonia, worth about $3billion, will continue to operate as a private, for-profit corporation but the Chouinard family, which controlled the business until last month, will no longer own the company.

The company’s voting stock is being transferred to the Patagonia Purpose Trust while non-voting stock had been given to the Holdfast Collective – a non-profit dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature. 

The trust will be overseen by members of the family which includes his spouse and two adult children.

While rich individuals often make financial contributions to causes, the New York Times said the structure of the Patagonia founder’s action meant he and his family would get no financial benefit – and in fact would face a tax bill from the donation. 

The business is worth about $3billion and is closely tied to environmentalism 

Chouinard and Patagonia have a history of pioneering environmental activism in business. 

The alpinist in 2002 founded the ‘1 per cent for the planet’ initiative, and Patagonia became the first business to commit one per cent of annual sales to the environment.

And in 2018, then Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario gave away $10 million the company saved from tax cuts that year to non-profit environmental groups in addition to the 1 per cent of sales it gives to environmental groups every year. 

Corporations received a windfall from the GOP’s sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 2017, which slashed corporate rates to 21 per cent, from 35 per cent.

Marcario at the time called the tax cut ‘irresponsible’ in a statement, adding: ‘Taxes protect the most vulnerable in our society, our public lands and other life-giving resources. 

‘In spite of this, the Trump administration initiated a corporate tax cut, threatening these services at the expense of our planet.’ 

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