Conservacion Patagonica volunteers remove a section of old sheep ranching fence at the future Patagonia National Park. Estancia Valle Chacabuco, Chile. HENRY TARMY

Growing the Grassroots

In 1972, the Ventura City Council met to consider an ambitious commercial development on the western flood-plain of the Ventura River near our headquarters. A lot of scientists got up to speak in support of the project. They said it wouldn’t hurt the river because it was already “dead.” Mark Capelli, who was a young graduate student and called himself “Friends of the Ventura River,” then gave a slide show showing all the life that was still in and around the river: eels, birds, raccoons. He pointed out there were still 50 steelhead showing up each year to migrate upstream. It brought the house down, and the project was eventually stopped.

Capelli’s success demonstrated to us the power of the grassroots to affect positive change. Since then—through our membership in 1% For The Planet®—we’ve donated some $70 million in cash and in-kind services to thousands of community-based groups working to create positive change for the planet in their own backyards:

  • Taking down dams
  • Restoring forests and rivers
  • Finding solutions to and mitigate climate change
  • Protecting critical land and marine habitat
  • Protecting threatened and endangered plants and animals
  • Supporting local, organic and sustainable agriculture

These groups often have less than five paid staffers; some are run entirely by volunteers. Instead of giving large sums to a handful of causes, we give modest grants—up to $12,000 each—to hundreds of groups every year for whom this money makes a world of difference.

As a company that uses resources and produces waste, we recognize our impact on the environment and feel a responsibility to give back. For us, it’s not charity or traditional philanthropy. It’s part of the cost of doing business. We call it our Earth Tax.

Environmental Grants and Support by the Numbers

6.2 MILLION: Dollars we donated this fiscal year to fund environmental work
70 MILLION: Cash and in-kind services we’ve donated since our tithing program began in 1985
741: Environmental groups that received a Patagonia grant this year
3,400: Grassroots environmental groups we’ve supported since 1985
500: Number of employees who were directly involved in awarding grants this year
116,905: Dollars given to nonprofits this year through our Employee Charity Match program
20 MILLION & CHANGE: Dollars we’ve allocated to invest in environmentally and socially responsible companies through our venture capital fund
8: New investments we made this year through $20 Million & Change
5: Mega-dams that will not be built on Chile’s Baker and Pascua rivers thanks to a worldwide effort in which we participated
380: Public screenings this year for DamNation
75,000: Signatures collected this year petitioning the Obama administration to remove four dams on the lower Snake River
10,424: Hours our employees volunteered this year on the company dime
100 MILLION: Dollars 1% For The Planet has donated to nonprofit environmental groups

For a more detailed (and beautiful) look at our work in 2015, browse our Environmental + Social Initiatives digital booklet. To learn more about how your company can join Patagonia in committing 1% of sales to groups making positive change in their communities, visit 1% For The Planet.