A rock climber who founded the outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard has given the company away after nearly 50 years at the helm. And the beneficiary isn’t family — his wife and two adult children gave up their ownership rights as well. Instead, Chouinard established a special trust and nonprofit organization that preserves the company’s independence while donating all the profits — roughly $100 million a year — to address the climate crisis and protect wild lands around the globe.
“Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” Mr. Chouinard, 83, told the The New York Times, which reports that the gift (valued at around $3 billion) will not be tax deductible — making the Chouinards among the most charitable families in the country.
Chouinard founded Patagonia in 1973 and it became one of the first companies to insist on organic cotton, offer on-site childcare, and donate a percentage of all sales to charity. One of the first certified B Corps (a designation that a business is meeting high standards of accountability), Patagonia recently changed its mission to “We’re in business to save our home planet.”
Chouinard, who lived out of his van in the early years and continues to live modestly, told the Times he was motivated by the climate crisis and the global pandemic — and being called a one-percenter. “I was in Forbes magazine listed as a billionaire, which really, really pissed me off,” he said. “I don’t have $1 billion in the bank. I don’t drive Lexuses.”
In a statement announcing the donation Chouinard said, “Instead of ‘going public,’ you could say we’re ‘going purpose.’ 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.”
This story is part of The Advocate’s 2022 People Of The Year issue, which is out on newsstands Nov. 1. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.