Patagonia Reads with UCSB

4 Min Read  /  Our Footprint

Tshirt_globalization_2After a very successful inaugural launch last year Patagonia got involved again with the University of California Santa Barbara READS program. UCSB students and Patagonia employees were given The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli to learn more about globalization.

Patagonia was asked to get even further involved and have representatives from the company speak as panelists at Santa Barbara county libraries over the course of a couple of weeks.

As strange as this might sound, a book on globalization and trade, all following the story through a T-shirt’s life, was actually an easy read. So if that hasn’t fully sparked your interest to read this book, I thought I would give my thoughts on it for potential readers to know what you are about to engage in.

This is a great book to give the reader a macro view of how globaltrade works. One of the most often asked questions I get from customersis, “Why doesn’t Patagonia make more products in the USA?” This is agreat question that involves a long answer with a lot of detail andthis book helps answer some of it from a big picture perspective.

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy gives the reader a good understanding of thecomplexity that exists in the world around the apparel industryspecifically, and could be applied to many other industries. Sourcingand production of goods has become global for so many reasons thatcannot be summed up in a simple answer. Therefore if you are interestedin this subject, jump into the deep end of the pool and start learning.Luckily this book gives you a good start to understanding thecomplexity.

One key point that I took away from this book is that we are in themidst of a cycle that has occurred many times before. Currently thereis a great resistance to manufacturing going oversees, but at one pointthe USA was that oversees. In the early 1800’s production was leavingEngland and moving to the New England. The northeast coast of theUnited States was able to produce fabric and garments much faster andcheaper than what was occurring in England at the time. But soon itmade more sense to manufacture textiles and sew garments in the south as labor was cheaper and that is where the cotton was beinggrown. So production moved down south and the north tried throughvarious means to keep production in the north, and then other countriesbecame the new destination. I apologize for my gross simplification ofthis time in history. I only want to show that what we are experiencingtoday is not an isolated incident; there are past examples that we can learnfrom.

One topic that came up again and again in the conversations I hadduring the community dialogues with the UCSB READS program was aboutglobal citizenship. As citizens of the globe, are we all responsiblefor taking care of each other and the planet? Even if we feel this waythere are many forces working against this goal. Compared to the 1800sthe impact, socially and environmentally, of production moving aroundthe world is causing problems we are all starting feel. Cottonspecifically has enormous land use, water use and hazardous wasteissues; and the social implications of a low-skill, low-wage,high-labor industry affect a much larger community beyond thosedirectly involved. But as Rivoli outlines in the book social andenvironmental problems are greatly influenced by economic driversincluding international trade agreements, country duties, and marketforces which makes solving these problems even more complicated.

There was a deep frustration at a couple of the events that Iparticipated in about how we are going to solve these big issues whenthe problems are so complex and intertwined. I say that we all have thepower to unravel this mess, but we cannot solve the world’s problemswith the tools we used to create them. We need a new model for doingbusiness that calculates the social and environmental costs. If we wantto operate in a capitalist society, which seems to be the one thatkeeps getting reinforced, then we need to account for all costs. Whatcosts are missing? Some might include environmental damage anddegradation, informal economies, fair wages, and inefficiencies. We cando business better, but we have to embrace the complexity of howbusiness is done today and stop thinking short term.

So I would recommend reading The Travels of T-shirt in the GlobalEconomy to expose yourself to what challenges are out there. Then puton your thinking cap and consider how you can make a difference. Thepeople that caused these problems had short-term and self-interesteddecisions. We can do better, and must, if we are going to have aglobalization model that works for everyone and the planet.

If you’re in the area and want to know more, come hear the author, Pietra Rivoli, speak March 5, 2008 8pm at UCSB’sCampbell Hall in Santa Barbara.

Related Stories

How We’re Reducing Our Carbon Footprint
Ever since Patagonia had an office (and wasn’t just selling gear out of the back of Yvon’s car), we’ve devoted desk space, our free time and a percentage of our sales to protecting wild nature. From our travels, we knew our land, air and water was in real trouble from short-sighted profiteers. Over the years,…
Ever since Patagonia had an office (and wasn’t just selling gear out of the back of Yvon’s car), we’ve devoted desk space, our free time and a percentage of our sales to protecting wild nature. From our travels, we knew our land, air and water was in real trouble from short-sighted profiteers. Over the years,…
Patagonia
6 min Read
Letter from Tuscany (Where We Get Our Used Wool)
Silvia Micheloni cuts the plastic straps binding a bale of compacted used wool clothes that have already been sorted by color—today, she’s working through the greens. As she snips the last strap, dark green fabric of different shapes and sizes spills onto the factory floor. Her son Gabriele sprays them with water to prevent static,…
Silvia Micheloni cuts the plastic straps binding a bale of compacted used wool clothes that have already been sorted by color—today, she’s working through the greens. As she snips the last strap, dark green fabric of different shapes and sizes spills onto the factory floor. Her son Gabriele sprays them with water to prevent static,…
Madalina Preda
8 min Read
What We’re Doing About Our Plastic Problem
Our home planet has a deeply disturbing and pervasive problem with plastics. In April, a group of researchers studying the deepest part of the ocean—the Mariana Trench—discovered plastic bags and candy wrappers floating nearly seven miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Globally, about 450 million metric tons of plastic are produced every year and 9.5 million tons of…
Our home planet has a deeply disturbing and pervasive problem with plastics. In April, a group of researchers studying the deepest part of the ocean—the Mariana Trench—discovered plastic bags and candy wrappers floating nearly seven miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Globally, about 450 million metric tons of plastic are produced every year and 9.5 million tons of…
Patagonia
8 min Read
Teaming Up to Get to the Bottom of Microfiber Pollution
Together with industry partners, Patagonia commissioned Ocean Wise’s Plastic Lab to investigate microfibers, the tiny textile particles that shed from garments over their lifetime. The scientists at the Plastic Lab have just completed the first phase of this research project, so we asked them for an update. While plastic debris in the ocean has rightfully…
Together with industry partners, Patagonia commissioned Ocean Wise’s Plastic Lab to investigate microfibers, the tiny textile particles that shed from garments over their lifetime. The scientists at the Plastic Lab have just completed the first phase of this research project, so we asked them for an update. While plastic debris in the ocean has rightfully…
Stephen Chastain
4 min Read
Giving Workers More of a Voice
Behind everything we make is the hard work of a human being—from growing raw materials and weaving fabric to cutting and sewing the finished product. Yet those who work in garment factories—and, globally, more than 60 million people do—have historically been subject to substandard working conditions and unable to report those issues. That’s why, in…
Behind everything we make is the hard work of a human being—from growing raw materials and weaving fabric to cutting and sewing the finished product. Yet those who work in garment factories—and, globally, more than 60 million people do—have historically been subject to substandard working conditions and unable to report those issues. That’s why, in…
Rachel G. Horn
7 min Read
Partnering with the People Who Make Our Clothing, with Fair Trade Practices
We started developing our social responsibility program in the mid-1990s, working side by side with factory partners. In 2001, we became a founding member of the Fair Labor Association, a nonprofit that works to improve working conditions worldwide. With over a decade of close focus on our cut-and-sew factories, in 2011, we moved one link…
We started developing our social responsibility program in the mid-1990s, working side by side with factory partners. In 2001, we became a founding member of the Fair Labor Association, a nonprofit that works to improve working conditions worldwide. With over a decade of close focus on our cut-and-sew factories, in 2011, we moved one link…
Patagonia
9 min Read
What You Can Do About Microfiber Pollution
Addressing the shedding of microfibers from synthetic garments continues to be a top priority for us at Patagonia. We know there are a lot of contributing factors to microplastic pollution, and we have been learning all we can about the release of fibers from our garments. Patagonia has commissioned two research projects on microplastics—one through…
Addressing the shedding of microfibers from synthetic garments continues to be a top priority for us at Patagonia. We know there are a lot of contributing factors to microplastic pollution, and we have been learning all we can about the release of fibers from our garments. Patagonia has commissioned two research projects on microplastics—one through…
Patagonia
3 min Read
Finding Moral Certainty for Businesses in an Uncertain World
Over the past few months, the business environment has changed dramatically. I’m not talking about trade policy or tax reform, but rather the heightened moral and ethical uncertainty many business leaders now feel at a time when the foundations of our democracy are challenged. New injustices seem to arise almost every day, demanding we speak…
Over the past few months, the business environment has changed dramatically. I’m not talking about trade policy or tax reform, but rather the heightened moral and ethical uncertainty many business leaders now feel at a time when the foundations of our democracy are challenged. New injustices seem to arise almost every day, demanding we speak…
CEO Rose Marcario, CEO
3 min Read
Popular searches