When Business Ethics Is Good Business
Patagonia has long been a company known for its ethically sourced and produced outdoor wear. When the founder of the company – Yvon Chouinard – announced last Wednesday that he and his family have opted to transfer their ownership to a trust that would ensure all profits went to combat climate change – it wasn’t exactly a surprise, but it sent shockwaves across social media. Most commenters across social media expressed unabashed pleasure.
We were curious. For a company so widely praised for environmental efforts, had consumers sought out their products FOR this reason, or was it simply an added bonus for purchasing a quality product.
We pulled all consumer reviews the top 8 selling products (according to their website), for a total of 4500 reviews. In case you’re curious. These products have an aggregate star rating of 4.6 across reviews ranging from 2016 to September 2022.
We searched for the following words within the consumer reviews to see if Patagonia’s policies were driving any purchasing decisions:
Activism; Conservation; Environment (taking out any reference to temperature or weather); Earth; Sustainable; Recycle(d) (easily the most common of the words); Ethical; Social; Preservation; Climate
52 out of 4500 reviews noted Patagonia’s social consciousness or environmental impact, making it clear this was a key consideration for purchase even before yesterday’s announcement. Many mentioned Patagonia in comparison to competitors, noting at least one reason for purchase over a competitor was the company’s environmental work. Even when frustrated with other aspects (inclusive sizing, for example), consumers still praised the company’s climate policies.
It’s clear that many consumers, even when searching out high quality goods, will select those goods from companies dedicated to the greater good when given the choice. As ESG becomes a metric by which investors and consumers are judging companies, it will be interesting to see if more manufacturer’s follow in Patagonia’s environmentally-conscious footsteps and if this commitment has an impact on the brand’s sales going forward.