Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, is an entrepreneur in spite of himself

Yvon Chouinard was born in 1938 to a father in Quebec and a mother he described as “adventurer”. (Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

New York — Yvon Chouinard has built an empire with his outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, but this climbing and surfing enthusiast thinks about nature above all else and never wants to do business like everyone else.

New proof if needed: he, at the age of 83, decided to donate his company to fight the environmental crisis more effectively.

An iconoclastic gesture in the United States, the country of capitalism par excellence, but consistent with the life of this adopted Californian.

“I have been a businessman for almost 60 years,” he wrote in a book in 2006. “It is as difficult for me to pronounce these words as it is difficult for others to admit that they are alcoholics or lawyers. “

“But a business can produce food, cure disease, control demographics, put people to work, and generally improve our lives,” he continued. And he “gains without losing his soul.”

Also read: Patagonia founder donates his company to protect the planet

Mr. Chouinard strives to make Patagonia a responsible company.

The company made a commitment in 1985 to donate the equivalent of 1% of its turnover to environmental protection groups and was one of the first clothing distributors to fully convert to organic cotton. in 1996.

Patagonia also became the first to adopt public welfare status in California in 2012, and in 2018 officially renewed the company’s mission to “save the planet.”

Eventually, almost 50 years after the launch of Patagonia, Mr. Chouinard decided, in agreement with his wife and two children, to transfer 100% of their shares in the company to a trust responsible for ensuring that its values ​​are respected, and to an association for combating the crisis of nature and environmental protection.

The latter will receive all of the company’s profits, which are estimated to be around 100 million dollars a year.

“The Earth is now our sole owner,” concluded Mr. Chouinard.

Rugby shirts

Patagonia board member Kristine Mcdivit Tompkins has known Yvon Chouinard since he was 24. “His vision has never changed,” she said in a press release announcing Patagonia’s evolution.

“Even though he’s still in good health, he wants to put a plan in place for the future of the company and the future of the planet,” he explained.

Born in 1938 in Maine, in the northeastern United States, to a Quebec father and mother whom he described as “adventurers”, Yvon Chouinard moved to California in 1946.

It was in a falcon observation club that he discovered a passion for climbing a few years ago.

He started making his own python, learning the elements of iron along the way. Some mountain climbers are envious of them. His business was launched, although it barely provided him with enough to live on for the first few years.

In 1965, he officially created Chouinard Equipment with a partner, which became a reference company in climbing equipment.

During an excursion to Scotland, Yvon Chouinard bought a rugby jersey for climbing, a solid garment with a collar to avoid cutting his neck with ropes.

Back in the United States, he was imitated. Seeing a new opportunity, he started selling rugby shirts and other clothes. Patagonia was officially launched in 1973.

The group has since diversified, creating subsidiaries in food, media, surfboards, investments in start-ups that share its values ​​and the recycling of previously worn clothing.

The magazine Forbes The businessman’s fortune was recently estimated at 1.2 billion dollars.

But Mr. Chouinard drives an old Subaru, has no computer or cellphone and splits his life between two modest homes in California and Wyoming, the report reported Wednesday. New York Times.

On his latest decision for his business, Yvon Chouinard told the daily: “Hopefully it will influence a new form of capitalism that will not lead to the association of a few rich and a group to the poor.”

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