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Yvon Chouinard        

Founder & Owner of Patagonia, Inc.

He began in business by designing, manufacturing, and distributing rock climbing equipment in the late 1950s. His tinkering led to an improved ice axe that facilitated the French ice climbing technique and is the basis for modern ice axe design. In 1964, he produced his first mail order cataloga one page mimeographed sheetcontaining advice not to expect fast delivery during climbing season. Business grew slowly until 1972 when Yvon added rugby shirts to his catalog and his clothing business took off.

In the late 1980s, Patagonias success was such that Yvon considered early retirement. In some ways he would have preferred to disappear into the South Pacific with his fly rod and surfboard. However, he decided to continue directing Patagonias course, in part to use the company to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. As part of this goal, Patagonia instituted an Earth Tax, pledging 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. In 2001, Yvon, along with Craig Mathews, owner of West Yellowstones Blue Ribbon Flies, started One Percent For The Planet, an alliance of businesses that contribute at least 1 percent of their net annual sales to groups on a list of researched and approved environmental organizations.

Recognizing that the financial success of the company provided the opportunity to also achieve personal goals, Chouinard committed the company to being an outstanding place to work, and to be an important resource for environmental activism. In 1984, Patagonia opened an on-site cafeteria offering "healthy, mostly vegetarian food," and started providing on-site child care. The commitment included paying employees working on local environmental projects so they could commit their efforts full-time.

The 1972 Chouinard catalog was influential in ushering-in the "clean climbing" movement in North America. It was more a collection of essays than a catalog, per se. In the early 1990s, an environmental audit of Patagonia revealed the surprising result that cotton was the worst product for the environment. In 1994, Chouinard committed the company to using all pesticide-free cotton, and this demand created the organic cotton industry in California.

Yvon spends much of his time in the outdoors and serving on the boards of numerous environmental groups. I work every day of my life. My job is to be the outside man, studying lifestyles around the world, coming up with ideas for new products, new market trends, seeing that Patagonia stays relevant in a rapidly changing world.

News


Patagonia's Founder Is America's Most Unlikely Business Guru

For years, Yvon Chouinard kept his eco-conscious, employee-friendly practices largely to himself. Now megacorporations like Walmart, Levi Straus and Nike are following his lead.

CWRU to award Inamori Ethics Prize to Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard ...

CLEVELAND, July 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- CWRU to award Inamori Ethics Prize to Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard, Sept. 12.

Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia founder, wins Inamori Ethics prize from ...

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia Inc., will be awarded the Inamori Ethics Prize by Case Western Reserve University.

Patagonia founder inspires discussion about business ethics, ideals ...

Yvon Chouinard, the outdoor enthusiast who founded Patagonia, will be in Cleveland September 12 to accept the Inamori Ethics Prize and to partake inĀ ...

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