Patagonia recently ran a campaign entitled “Don’t buy this jacket unless you need it”, and subsequently had its best two years of sales. We ask Tom Gell, Store Manager of their Sydney city store, what inspired this marketing strategy and how it’s reducing unnecessary consumption.
Tell us a bit about Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative.
The Common Threads Initiative is all about reducing our environmental footprint by questioning and making changes to the way we buy. Reduce consumption and only buy what’s needed, repair what breaks, reuse or share what’s no longer required and recycle everything else.
We want our customers, present and future, to be reminded of what their consumer habits are costing the world we live in. Common Threads is a way to educate, while getting customers actively involved in pursuing ways to upcycle their goods or see to it that they buy right or less.
With the help of our customers, we’ve recycled almost 40 tonnes of worn Patagonia clothing! Anyone can donate clothing to this initiative and we’ll see to it that if finds a new home or renews itself into another product.
So is that how the ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ ad campaign came about – as part of Common Threads?
As a company, we needed to address the issue of consumerism head on. We design and sell products that are made to last. But we ask you not to buy from us what you don’t need. Everything we make – everything anyone makes – costs the planet more life than it gives back, and the biggest thing we can do to reduce our impact is to do more with what we have.
So before you buy that new jacket, or any piece of new clothing, ask the question, “Do I really need it?”
However, Patagonia is a growing business – and we want to be in business a long time. So we strive to only sell things that are beautiful but not in thrall to fashion, useful, long lasting and multifunctional where possible.
What are you currently doing for the sustainability cause?
We’re really excited that our wetsuits will soon be much greener because we’ll be converting neoprene into a bio-neoprene in partnership with Yulex Corporation – they produce agricultural-based latex and allergy-friendly biomaterials. You can read about it here.
We’re aiming to have all of our wetsuit products go 100 per cent bio-rubber in the near future with the first products arriving in 2014. But the ultimate achievement would be to see other companies join us in changing the manufacturing of a product that causes so many hassles for landfill worldwide.
What was the inspiration behind your green wall – why did you decide to put it up and what, if anything, are you trying to tell your customers?
The green wall is a design element that hopefully provides both customers and staff with a nicer environment by bringing the outdoors in. And having a ‘living wall’ that continually changes throughout the year is a point of difference to other stores. There’s also the environmental benefits associated with green walls – energy savings by reducing heating and cooling, better air quality and acoustic neutralising by reducing external noise.
Patagonia’s 1% For the Planet initiative supports local grassroots movements through small grants. What groups do you support here in Sydney and why?
Since the beginning, Patagonia has tried to use its business to influence others in order to build momentum around causes we believe in. We see our retail stores as platforms to connect with causes we believe are worth getting behind.
Whether it’s an event for a not-for-profit environmental group or the launch of a sporting movie, we offer our space to those we feel aligned with.
Sydney is an extremely forward-thinking city and from this we’ve been able to connect with lots of groups to present educational and inspiring nights. Locally we’ve supported the Take 3 and Two Hands Project clean beach initiatives and have donated our time and products to helping out not for profit group, Youth Food Movement.
Having the opportunity to work for a company that lets you directly help out causes that you believe in makes me feel very proud.
Patagonia’s Sydney city store is at 93 Bathurst Street. To find out more about their inspiring environmental commitment and philosophy visit Patagonia’s Australian website. While you’re at it, take a look at their global site and very neat Footprint Chronicles®! An interactive world map highlights Patagonia’s supply chain offering total transparency in the companies it uses to help produce its goods. Wouldn’t it be great to see more companies do the same?