The founder of Patagonia forges a more sustainable future


Lindsay Taylor '24

Mr. Yvon Chouinard gives up his shares in Patagonia to combat climate change.

Mr. Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the outerwear company Patagonia, transferred his ownership of the company to a specially curated trust, the Patagonia Purpose Trust, and a non-profit organization, the Holdfast Collective, September 14.  Upper School English and Theology Teacher and Sustainability Coordinator Mr. Matthew Blake and senior Sinclair Noonan believe that Mr. Chouinard’s act will spur more sustainable business practices in the near future. 

Mr. Chouinard has run Patagonia, a company worth approximately $3 billion, since its inception in 1973.  This transfer of ownership ensures that all of the company’s annual profit, which is around $100 million, will go to combating the global climate crisis, according to The New York Times.  

Mr. Chouinard rock climbs during a festival in Telluride.  Courtesy of

Mr. Chouinard lived for exploration in the outdoors.  He was a rock climber and adventurer in his youth.  It was his love of nature that first led him to contribute a significant percentage of Patagonia’s annual profit to environmental causes, according to The New York TimesHowever, even before his decision to transfer the ownership of his company to help save the environment, Patagonia incorporated Mr. Chouinard’s passion for the outdoors into their business model. 

“The Chouinard strategy represented best practice green entrepreneurship, which if widely adopted might markedly reduce the environmental impact of business,” Mr. Geoffrey Jones reported for a Harvard Business School review in 2016, according to 

It was with great reluctance that Mr. Chouinard became a billionaire in the first place, as he never wanted or knew what to do with a company.  However, despite his hesitance, Mr. Chouinard kept Patagonia to protect his company from greedy successors.  He hopes his ultimate decision to give away his company to a non-profit and trust will inspire significant change in the way big businesses operate, according to The New York Times.

“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 said, according to The New York Times.  “We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.”

Similar to Mr. Chouinard’s experiences of wilderness adventuring and rock climbing in his youth, Mr. Blake grew up appreciating the natural world.  He tries to pass on these values to his students by exploring the connection between God and the environment.

Mr. Blake and members of the Environmental Stewardship Committee learn about bees and the process of honey extraction.  Courtesy of Ms. Ellyn Stewart

“Growing up, the natural world wasn’t something out there.  It was very much at the center of my experience of the world,” Mr. Blake said.  “It was those early experiences with non-human life that made me conceive of the environment as something living, sacred, and enchanted.  I include units on eco-theology and the environment.  I just finished a unit with my sophomores studying creation and how God calls us to this non-violent relationship with the natural world.” 

Mr. Blake appreciates Mr. Chouinard for his sacrifice for the well-being of the Earth.  He hopes other business leaders will follow Mr. Chouinard’s example of alleviating environmental stress in their business models.

“Patagonia has done a lot in recent years to practice stewardship,” Mr. Blake said.  “It’s important and necessary that other business leaders follow his decision to divest and allocate a portion of the majority of their assets to environmental causes.  If owners are not willing to restructure their business models to alleviate ecological stress, they should at least be willing to pay for any negative environmental impacts associated with the processing and distribution of their products.”

Sinclair heads the Sustainability Club at Sacred Heart Greenwich.  She believes Mr. Chouinard’s decision will have an immediate impact on the fight against climate change.

“I think this is a huge step for companies joining this fight for environmental justice and against climate change,” Sinclair said.  “It is a really impactful statement as well.  It will encourage people to shop at Patagonia, which will, in turn, send money to charities that are fighting climate change.”

Sinclair also emphasizes the inherent duty of companies to protect the environment.  She highlights the devastating effects climate change will have on all businesses in the future if they do not exhibit stewardship in the present. 

“I think issues of climate and issues of finance are really universal because a lot of future investments have to be sustainable investments,” Sinclair said.   “We are investing in the future after all.  People who are investing in Floridian hotels and businesses will lose money as sea levels rise.  We need to make sure we are making sustainable investments to protect these assets.  Everything really coincides.”  

Featured Image by Lindsay Taylor ’24