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Patagonia Wants to Set You Up With Activism

The company launched a “dating tool” to match customers with local grassroots organizations.

A person cross-country skiing over water Photo: Patagonia/Facebook

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While there are plenty of retail companies that count social justice as part of their work, few walk the walk like outdoors brand Patagonia. The company donates 1 percent of its sales to environmental organizations, and it issued nearly 1,000 grants to environmental groups last year. Its employees are also allowed to work for up to two months each year for environmental NGOs while still receiving a salary and benefits.

Now Patagonia wants to get its customers actively involved in its advocacy endeavors. The company is launching a new tool through its website that will connect Patagonia shoppers with grassroots organizations involved in environmental work. The “dating tool,” as Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard jokingly calls it in a promotional video, lets customers choose their location and then explore local opportunities for events and volunteering in categories like biodiversity, climate, communities, land, and water. The site also allows users to donate money or apply for a grant with the company.

Patagonia is first and foremost a clothing brand, but Chouinard now says the company’s “reason for existence is to force government and corporations to take action and solve our environment problems.” Even though it’s always been known for its activism, Chouinard says this initiative comes at a time when “things aren’t going very well for the planet.” While he’s referring to threats like global warming, Chouinard is also no doubt referring to the Trump administration (the president’s image flickers in the promotional video). In a 2016 profile, Chouinard told the New Yorker that “Trump is the perfect person to take us to the apocalypse.” Over the summer, the company put out a statement against the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, calling the choice one that “undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change and damages the world’s ability to avoid the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change.”

Patagonia has also been one of several outdoors brands fighting to protect federal land. After the president announced he was reducing the size of Utah national monuments Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in December, Patagonia’s homepage soberly featured the words “The President Stole Your Land.”

Patagonia’s do-good nature also helps with its already-burgeoning street cred. As Outside Magazine noted over the summer, the company’s activism and anti-Trump mood has resulted in stellar sales figures. After Trump won the election, the company promised to give its Black Friday profits to environmental groups; not only did its sales hit $10 million, it also won 25,000 new shoppers. Patagonia merch also reportedly sold six times as fast online after the company took on the president over the national monument rollbacks. This new platform will surely benefit both its activism and revenue efforts.