Blog: Leonie BarriePatagonia faces up to the "elephant in the room"

Leonie Barrie | 25 September 2013

Do you really "need that thing?" asks Patagonia

Do you really "need that thing?" asks Patagonia

Confronting the "elephant in the room" is all in a day's work for Patagonia - and the outdoor clothing and footwear company's latest campaign is no exception.

It is challenging the assumption that an economy based on growth and increased consumption is tantamount to prosperity - and is instead pushing the idea that everyone must learn to consume less and use resources far more productively.

The retailer also wants to see faster and more ingenious innovation in an attempt to reduce adverse human impact on the natural systems that support life.

Patagonia notes that every year, humans use the earth's resources at a rate nearly one and a half times faster than nature can replace essential "services" such as clean water, clean air, arable land, healthy fisheries, and the stable climate all businesses and societies depend on.

"If the population climbs from 7bn to 9bn people by 2050 and, even more importantly, our growing and increasingly global high-consumption economy continues to draw down our natural resources, we will exceed the planet's capacity by 300% to 500%, putting us into ecological bankruptcy," notes Vincent Stanley, co-author with Yvon Chouinard of The Responsible Company.

"How do we reverse this decline before it becomes sudden catastrophe? How do those of us in business confront this challenge yet remain in business?"

Patagonia doesn't claim to have the answers, but "wants to start a conversation" on this issue through its new environmental campaign, The Responsible Economy.

It's a bold step in an industry where success is measured by rising sales and whose model of consumption is in complete conflict with sustainability. But it's not the first time Patagonia has raised this topic with its customers.

Indeed, the campaign was inspired by the huge response to its provocative "Don't Buy This Jacket" full-page ad in the New York Times on Black Friday, 2011, when it asked customers to think twice whether they needed a new jacket.

Its recent "Better Than New" ad in the same paper also celebrated the re-sale of well-used, long-surviving Patagonia clothing.

And earlier this week, as reported on just-style, the company said it was extending its Worn Wear clothing recycling scheme to a number of stores following the success of a pilot launched at the end of last year.

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