We’ve recently released “What’s Done in Our Name?,” thefirst in a three-part video series called Work in Progress that examines largersocial and environmental issues we grapple with as a company.
”What’s Done in Our Name” directly addresses what we doto monitor the labor practices of the overseas factories that make our goods.
The launch of this video comes at a time when Americansare concerned about the further decline of domestic manufacturing. It should beno surprise that a video focusing on overseas production has sparked a numberof customers to ask why we simply don’t make more of our goods in
Below, we highlight one of these e-mails as well as aresponse from a long-time
We welcome your contribution to this exchange – as wellas other thoughts you have about responsible business practices. It's our hopethat as the discussion unfolds it will enrich our continued examination of ourcorporate life – and help us do what we do better and with less harm to theenvironment and the social fabric.
Subject: Comments on the Footprint Chronicles
Patagonia often touts environmental responsibility andclaims to have an environmentally-conscious business model yet virtually everysingle product that Patagonia sells throughits catalog is produced overseas. This is despite the fact that the vastmajority of Patagonia customers live in the United States.
The transportationcost (and fossil fuels consumed) to ship your products from manufacturingplants overseas to the UnitedStates is not insignificant. Patagonia couldalso help to improve the US economy by manufacturing its products domestically.
China,where a good portion of Patagonia clothing isproduced, has an abysmal environmental record. The conditions of the plantswhere your products are made may be good but the energy that is needed bytheses plants is produced by dirty coal that contributes to hazardous airquality conditions that are dangerous to the people of China but alsoto the environment in general.
I also wonder if Patagonia, a company which prides itselfin using recycled material, collects the post-consumer plastics in the
I know that I am not alone in wondering how sincere yourcompany's environmental stance is when producing clothing. I would guess thatmost of us would be willing to pay a bit more for clothing that is made in the
Dear Footprint Chronicles Reader,
Our Customer Service department forwarded me your e-mailfor a response. They thought my perspective might be useful to you because I'man editor on the Footprint Chronicles and have been associated with the companyon and off since we started in the early '70s.
First, thanks for your thoughtful and passionate letter.We appreciate the time you took to write us and the spirit in which you write.Having written to companies myself, I know that firing off a letter to a corporationcan feel like throwing a rock into a lake. But only a human being can write a letter- and read one. We take your comments seriously. It distresses us to hear fromcustomers who tell us we fall short of expectations. We take it you'd like usto be a company you'd like to buy from. We'd like to be a company you'd like tobuy from! But if you feel as strongly as you do about "Made in
We cannot make any claim at all to be a "Made in
A word of background: Patagonia started off quite smallas an outgrowth of an even smaller climbing equipment company that at the timehad its own machine shop in Ventura but also had ice axes and crampons made underits name in Japan and Europe. The climbing community in those days was smalland mostly poor – and decidedly international. People traveled a lot on cheaptickets and slept on each other's floors. So we were all inclined to considerourselves citizens of the world as well as Americans.
About half our sales today come from outside the
Some of the steps we take to reduce environmental harmactually contribute to more geographic fragmentation. There are fewer placesfor us to go for organic cotton and recycled polyester than for their conventionalcounterparts; that sometimes requires more goods moved around at more stages.For now the benefits of using more environmentally conscious fibers likeorganic cotton and recycled polyester outweigh the downside of extra shipping.
Having said that we're not a Made in
We might be a greener company if we put quality second.But we instruct our designers and production people to put quality first. Whatdoes that mean? A product has to be durable. And when it does come to the endof its useful life, its different components should wear out at the same time.Quality means that a product should do what we say it does: our shells aresupposed to bead off water so moisture doesn't penetrate. This, for thepresent, involves the use of a durable water repellent with PFOA, a chemicalthat persists in the environment – and that we'd love to get rid of when wefind an alternative.
How do we choose where we make our goods? The answer ispretty complex. Quality is our principle criterion for sourcing; cost becomes asubset. That is, given the choice between two factories that meet our required levelof quality and specific performance characteristics we might opt for the onewith the lower price – if we know we can trust the lower-cost source. This istrue of all sourcing decisions from fiber choice to fabric construction tosewing. Reduced environmental harm is a strong second criterion. If we canreduce environmental harm without sacrificing quality we do so; where reducedharm will increase the price we make judgment calls; the environment oftenwins, even when we think a decision will cost us sales.
We're committed to working in factories that treat wellthe workers who make
Thanks much again for writing, for caring enough towrite. We don't expect to win you over but we wanted to clarify to you ourprinciples as well as outline where our principles, applied in a world ofmarket realities, influence our priorities. We hope that this is a useful glimpsefor you into our company and that we earn your respect. We understand if due toyour own priorities you vote elsewhere with your wallet. But we'll miss yourbusiness and your loyalty.