Patagonia jackets are overwhelmingly present in the closets of students at Whitman College. However, according to the Patagonia brand itself, it may not be ethical that the quantity of their jackets on campus is so high. Recently, Patagonia has presented the world with its new business model and it involves limiting growth. Patagonia is acting in hopes of curbing our culture of unnecessary consumerism and consequently they are operating under the ideal that if you do not functionally need one of their jackets, you should not buy it.
A company that proposes the consumer buys only what they truly need instead of buying for the sake of buying obviously is cutting into their own profits. Patagonia however, indicates that they are satisfied with their annual revenue–which is billions less than that of North Face–and have no desire to see it grow, especially through unnecessary means. Patagonia has assumed a business model that is so contrary to that of the American standard that it is shocking to me. The company even launched a wildly effective anti-marketing campaign in 2011 called “Don’t Buy This Jacket”. The campaign included ads and tags that urged consumers to only buy the featured Patagonia jacket if they truly needed a new winter coat that season. Many companies try and pull the consumer in to entice them to buy excessive and unnecessary goods, but Patagonia is actively pushing the consumer away to try and ensure that their company’s production and use of environmental resources is not excessive and wasteful.
Many companies like Patagonia are also using “green” business practices. In fact, Patagonia uses the same green marketing tactics as similar companies like Nothface, who advertise things like the use of ethically grown, organic cotton. The difference is that many of Patagonia’s competitors simply use these green business practices as incentives for consumers to buy more of their products. Appropriately marketed for the wishes of the modern suburban consumer, Northface clothing helps the company yield an annual revenue of over 2 billion dollars. Patagonia’s annual revenue in 2013 was far lower than that of Nothface at a mere 570 million dollars. The reason for this difference in revenue boils down to how the companies view their products as economic tools. Northface sees the green innovation in their products as a tool for market growth; in 2013 their own projection for annual revenue in 2017 was 3.3 billion dollars. Patagonia on the other hand sees the high technology in their products as a reason for consumers to stop buying clothing. Patagonia insists that their technology is so efficient that the consumer should trust it enough to not buy another similar piece of clothing in the foreseeable future. The technology in the companies is very similar, the way they allow the buyer to interpret that technology from the perspective of either a consumer or a user of clothing is what sets the two companies apart.
Patagonia believes that because corporations currently control politics and because our political system has not changed quickly enough with growing environmental problems, Patagonia as a company must begin making statements with extreme business tactics. If you buy into their campaign, Patagonia is putting ethics in front of simple economics. For some it may be hard to trust Patagonia’s words as more than just a clever tactic to draw attention and excite consumers. If you do believe Patagonia’s is genuine in their plea, that green consumerism comes not from what you buy, but how much you buy, then consider buying a Patagonia coat next winter. That is, if you really do need it. If not, Patagonia does not want your business. If you have three of the same Patagonia jackets in your closet, you might even be encouraged to let a couple them leave your possession and enter Patagonia’s new used clothing initiative.
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