Patagonia’s $20 Million & Change for Environmental Startups

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Founded by world-class rock climber Yvon Chouinard in 1973, Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company with a deep history of environmental activism and conservation. Unlike most other traditional businesses, Patagonia has never been focused solely on its bottom line.

Every year for 30 years Patagonia has donated 1 percent of total sales to grassroots environmental groups and in 2001 co-founded 1% For the Planet, an alliance of businesses which also commit at least 1 percent of their sales to environmental causes. In addition, Patagonia also supports several smaller initiatives such as the World Trout Initiative, Environmental Internships, the Conservation Alliance, the Organic Exchange, the Footprint Chronicles, and the Common Threads Recycling Program.

In May the company launched its latest and most ambitious environmental program, $20 Million & Change, a $20 million venture capital fund to invest in startups that share its corporate ethos.

In the official announcement on the Patagonia company blog, Chouinard stated:

Now is the time for Patagonia to take the next logical step: to reach out beyond the framework of the apparel and outdoor industries. Today, my family and I are happy to launch $20 Million & Change, an internal fund to help like-minded, responsible start-up companies bring about positive benefit to the environment.

$20 Million & Change is actually one part of a larger restructuring of Patagonia. A new holding company, Patagonia Works, was formed and now owns Patagonia, Inc., Patagonia Provisions, Patagonia Media, Patagonia Government Sales, Fletcher Chouinard Designs, and the new venture fund. Patagonia Works is dedicated to a single cause: using business to help solve the environmental crisis.

Chouinard’s announcement continued:

Others might see Patagonia Works and $20 Million & Change as revolutionary business ventures; we think both are just next logical steps to doing business more responsibly. Economic growth for the past two centuries has been tied to an ever-spiraling carbon bonfire. Business – and human – success in the next 100 years will have to come from working with nature rather than using it up. That is a necessity, not a luxury as it’s seen now in most business quarters. We invite and encourage all companies to start to work with us in that direction.

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