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Patagonia Shares Takeaways From Its Recent Sustainability Panel

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 year ago | Features

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Last month, some of the most environmentally engaged minds in business came together at Patagonia’s Sydney flagship for a panel discussion on how businesses can help preserve our planet and its resources. The common thread among those who spoke – including Patagonia’s Environmental & Social Initiatives Manager Shannon Bourke – was their membership to 1% for the Planet. Which is a global network of businesses, non-profits and individuals working together to implement sustainable environmental practices.

“1% for the Planet is a global organisation that connects dollars and doers to accelerate smart environmental giving,” explains the company’s COO, Jon Cocina. “Started in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, our members have given more than $200 million to environmental non-profits to date. Today, 1% for the Planet is a network of more than 1,800 member businesses, a growing global community of individual members, and thousands of non-profit partners in more than 60 countries.”

One of those members is Australian Ethical – a superannuation and managed fund investments company with a difference. “Our mission is to use the power of business to create a positive impact and address some of the world’s most challenging issues – from climate change to inequality – while generating shared prosperity and sustainable returns,” explains the company’s Managing Director, Phil Vernon. “Each year Australian Ethical gives 10% of our yearly profits (after tax and before bonuses) to charitable organisations and social impact initiatives making a difference. Joining 1% for the Planet has also aligned our philanthropic giving under a common cause and connected us with likeminded businesses addressing similar climate issues.”

Bringing together companies like Australian Ethical, Patagonia and 1% for the Planet, the recent panel conversation held in-store at Patagonia gave attendees the opportunity to network and learn along with some of Australia’s most environmentally conscious businesses. In particular, it shed light on some exciting new developments, like the recent Cone Communications Study, which showed that 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about. “This trend is increasing internationally as well,” Cocina explains.

It was also revealed that 2017 and 2018 were the busiest in organisational history, with 2019 off to an even stronger start. So to recap from the inspiring event, we asked Patagonia’s Environmental & Social Initiatives Manager Shannon Bourke, Australian Ethical Managing Director Phil Vernon and 1% for the Planet COO Jon Cocina to share their insights from the panel discussion.

Rosie Dalton: Shannon, why are environmental initiatives such an important part of the Patagonia brand DNA? 
Shannon Bourke:
Patagonia’s founders and employees are people who spend a lot of time outdoors – we are surfers, hikers, climbers and trail runners, and our ability to enjoy these pursuits is intimately linked to the state of the environment. We have witnessed a sharp decline in the wild places we love and so our environmental initiatives program grew out of realising the extent of the environmental crisis. We are constantly evaluating the environmental impact of our business operations and supply chain, and how we can use our voice and resources to save our home planet.

Rosie: How does 1% for the Planet factor into this overarching approach? 
: A lot of the work that’s being done to reverse the environmental crisis is being done by grassroots groups around the world. Current funding though is not enough, with only 3 percent of philanthropy going to environmental causes and only 5 percent of that coming from corporations. The resources available to environmental groups don’t reflect the scale of the crisis we are facing. Patagonia considers its 1% For The Planet program as a self-imposed “Earth Tax” for living on the planet, using up resources, and being part of the problem.

Rosie: What prompted Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard to co-found the initiative in 2002? 
: Yvon Chouinard and Craig Matthews, co-founders of 1% For The Planet, both shared the perspective that a healthy planet is essential not just to their businesses, but also mankind, and for those reasons they believe in supporting the work of grassroots environmental groups. In the absence of any climate leadership from our political leaders, the aim was to build a network of business to support community groups and lead an environmental revolution from the ground up.

Rosie: Phil, what would you say are some of the major environmental issues that we’re currently facing as a society?
Phil Vernon: Climate change is among the most challenging environmental issue of our times. Extreme heat waves, declining global food stocks, increasingly intense storms, loss of ecosystems and species, and life-threatening sea level rise are all known outcomes of not acting quickly enough.  

Words are easy; but actions are what matter and far bolder action is needed, particularly where the protection of the environment is concerned, which is why in addition to ethical investing and making money do good, we are the only Australian super fund to have set a net-zero emissions target and timeframe for all our investments. We have signed two pledges consistent with this commitment; the Montreal Pledge and the Portfolio Decarbonisation Coalition and we track and publish our carbon emissions in our sustainability report.

Rosie: Jon, why do you believe that 1% for the Planet is such an important initiative right now? 
Jon Cocina
: We recognise that the current level of environmental giving – only 3% of total philanthropy – is not enough to solve the most pressing issues facing our planet. Issues like climate change, plastic pollution, declining biodiversity and many, many others are real and we need to take action before it is too late. In addition, there is a tide of consumer interest in aligning their purchases with their values. Brands that carry the 1% for the Planet logo make it easy for people to support the causes that they care about by simply choosing to support our members. Small changes add up, even 1% at a time. 

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