Patagonia's Australian Director On The Brand's Mission To Limit Consumption

by: Rosie Dalton | 6 months ago | News

Patagonia’s iconic Black Friday advertisement. Image source

On Black Friday in 2011, Patagonia ran a full-page ad in the New York Times with the tagline 'Don't Buy This Jacket'. These words were accompanied by a photo of Patagonia's R2 jacket and a piece of text that broke down the environmental impact of this best-selling product. 

"As is true of all the things we can make and you can buy, this jacket comes with an environmental cost higher than its price," the advertisement read. "There is much to be done and plenty for us all to do. Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything."

Patagonia wasn't playing a trick on potential customers, or trying to reverse psychology them into actually buying the jacket with this ad, it was simply discouraging thoughtless purchases. This might seem like an odd strategy, but it makes total sense to anyone who is familiar with the environmentally and socially responsible company. 

It’s been seven years since this anti-advertisement ran in the New York Times, but Patagonia’s stance on the frenzied annual sale day that is Black Friday has not changed. When every other brand in the world tries to shift as much product as they possibly can with Black Friday flash sales, Patagonia does the exact opposite. That's because the brand stands by its mission statement "to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis". 

With Black Friday upon us again, we caught up with Patagonia's Australian Director Dane O'Shanassy to talk about why conscious consumption is so important today and every day. 

Rosie Dalton: Can you tell us a bit about Patagonia's stance on Black Friday?
Dane O'Shanassy: Patagonia’s mission statement is to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. With our mission top of mind, we believe we have a responsibility as a company to address the issue of consumerism. We need to limit consumption, lighten our environmental footprint and therefore encourage customers to think twice before they buy.

Black Friday is a day in the year that businesses can make big sales, however, we use this time to address the issue of over consumption. Our stance on Black Friday was highlighted in 2011, when our ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ campaign was run in the New York Times. This was our way of encouraging consumers to reflect before they spend and buy less, not only at this particular time of the year, but throughout the year overall.

Rosie: When did the company start donating 100% of Black Friday sales back to the planet and why is this such an important initiative for Patagonia?
Dane: We are in business to make and sell products, and we want to be in business for a long time, however everything we make takes something from the planet that we are unable to give back. In fact, each piece of Patagonia clothing, regardless of whether it’s organic or uses recycled materials, emits several times its weight in greenhouse gases, generates two thirds of its weight in waste, and uses copious amounts of fresh water. Therefore the need to reduce consumption is critical. 

For Black Friday in 2016 we announced that we would give 100% of our global retail and online Black Friday sales directly to grassroots non-profits working on the frontline to protect our air, water and soil for future generations. [This] was an important way for us to signify our stance on heavy consumerism and encourage customers to reconsider their purchases. The expectation was to reach $2 million in sales; however, we were humbled to reach $10 million in sales — money that went straight to hundreds of grassroots environmental organisations around the world.

This campaign was referred to as a ‘fundraiser for the earth’ and we are incredibly proud that we were able to assist these organisations on the frontline to build a healthier planet for us all to enjoy. Whilst we are not doing 100% for the planet every year, we do use the occasion to try and creatively highlight the problems over consumption creates.

Rosie: In the lead up to one of the year's busiest shopping periods, what are some steps consumers can take to help reduce their impact?
Dane: First and foremost, Patagonia’s contribution to reduce impact is to make garments that are useful, multifunctional where possible and long lasting, whilst also encouraging consumers to Reduce, Repair, Reuse and Recycle. At Patagonia we encourage consumers to reduce their consumption; by purchasing gear that lasts a long time you eliminate the need to buy what is not necessary.

Secondly, repairing your gear helps keep it in play for longer. The biggest step we can take to reduce our impact is to do more with what we have. Our Sydney Repair Hub conducts basic on-site clothing repairs and alterations, and the Worn Wear program has just been rolled out in all our stores nation-wide. We offer basic repairs, not only for Patagonia gear, but gear from all brands, and offer tips for cleaning and care in order to extend the life of garments. 

We encourage consumers to sell or pass on their gear when no longer needed and shop second-hand where possible. Finally, at the end of the garments life, we are able to assist in recycling Patagonia garments when they are beyond repair.

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