The owner of Patagonia has faced backlash after giving his $3 billion company to a climate crisis non-profit organization.
Yvon Chouinard, 83, founded the US outdoor clothing retailer in 1973. He announced recently that any profit not reinvested in the company would be used to fight the climate crisis.
He has worked with his wife and two children to create a new structure for the company that will allow it to make a profit while also donating money.
“Each year, the money we make after reinvesting in the business will be distributed as a dividend to help fight the crisis,” Chouinard wrote in an open letter on the company’s website.
“Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.”
According to reports, however, it’s been claimed that he’s avoiding a $700 million tax hit by giving it away.
Soon after the announcement, Net Zero Watch tweeted: “Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has described his decision to give away the company as his last-ditch effort to do all he could to protect the planet, however, it’s also helping him skirt around $700 million of tax bills. Funny that!”
A Bloomberg analysis found that the structure of Chouinard’s deal means that he is able to avoid the tax he would have paid if he’d sold the company. It also reportedly means that his heirs will avoid estate and gift taxes, and that the family will keep control of the company.
Chouinard is thought to be worth around $1.2bn. He’s previously stated, however, that he “never wanted to be a businessman.”
Why is the fashion industry bad for the environment?
Fashion is thought to be responsible for around 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. It also accounts for nearly 20 percent of wastewater.
It has also been highlighted as a key polluter of rivers. In 2021, it was found that fast fashion brands were responsible for a number of rivers in Africa turning blue. A report found that the water had turned as alkaline as bleach.
What’s more, around 85 percent of all textiles end up being thrown away each year. One garbage truck’s worth of clothes is thrown away every second. Many of these are made with synthetic fibers, like polyester or nylon, which do not biodegrade.
Patagonia has highlighted the growing waste crisis in the past. In November 2011, the brand hit headlines after creating an advert with the slogan: “Don’t Buy This Jacket.”
The advert, which was published in the New York Times, intended to highlight the issue of clothing overconsumption.
It explained all the environmental costs of producing the jacket in question and asked people to think carefully before buying one.
Patagonia’s eco credentials
Patagonia has long been popular among environmentally-conscious customers.
According to its website, 89 percent of its fabrics from this season were made with more sustainable “preferred materials.”
Patagonia uses a number of recycled materials in its collection, including cotton, spandex, and also NetPlus®, a material made entirely from recycled fishing nets.
The brand’s range isn’t entirely vegan, however, as down feathers and wool are used in some garments.
This article was originally published on September 20, 2022. It was updated on September 21 to include information about Patagonia’s alleged tax evasion.