Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

I am thoroughly fascinated by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. Yvon is a legendary climber, businessman and environmentalist.

I can’t remember when I last highlighted as many paragraphs as in his book Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. Mr. Chouinard makes me think about my values and how I run my businesses. The world needs more leaders like him!

I would like to create an extensive list of entrepreneurs that have values we can look up to. I refuse to believe that in order to super-successful you have to be ruthless and unethical. I want to believe that (business) success can be built on respect, kindness and decisions that don’t always come down to money. Yvon Chouinard fits that category. Who else?

In this talk, Mr. Chouinard talks about his personal history, how he created Patagonia, and the philosophy he uses to run the company. He discusses how he has tried to minimize Patagonia’s impact on the environment, such as making fleece clothing from recycled soda bottles. He also talks about his One Percent for the Planet plan in which participating businesses contribute at least 1% of their net annual sales to groups on a list of researched and approved environmental organizations. I also recommend this article about Mr. Chouinard over at Inc Magazine.

14 Comments leave a comment below

  1. I totally agree! Mr Chouinard is leading a way worth following. I think that the team at Maiyet – http://www.maiyet.com – is doing great things as well. They built their brand on the concept of sourcing craftwork and products from local artisans in far flung places around the world, helping to alleviate poverty in the process.

  2. I’ve been a fan of his ever since watching 180 degrees south (it’s on netflix if you want to watch).

    Also really enjoyed Patagonia’s “don’t buy this” campaign for black friday (http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/ad-day-patagonia-136745)

  3. I think you might also like Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (the Zappos founder). He has a passion for developing his own employees as if they were the greatest resource on the planet. (They are.)

  4. This video really inspired me today! Thanks Tina!

  5. If you like Yvon, I encourage you to look up Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farms, the organic yogurt producer up in New Hampshire. (He wrote a book a few years back — “Stirring Things Up” — which is his history of the business and his guiding principles.) Like Chouinard, Hirshberg is an avid environmentalist — he gave up graduate studies in climate sciences before going the non- and then for-profit route — and believes that businesses can be used as a means for social change.

    Had the pleasure of writing on these types in my first job out of college, and hope to work for similarly-minded companies after my MBA. So inspiring.

  6. If all that is true and he is such an “ethical do gooder” why are his goods MADE IN CHINA? I was told they were a great brand but in-store, I only had to see the label to be disgusted.

  7. Ray Anderson of Interface, Inc. was another perfect example of this (sadly, he has passed away). If you want to know more, you can watch his TED talk here:


    A great man and an inspiring leader. I wanna be just like him when I grow up!

  8. It’s weird to read “founder of Patagonia” for a citizen from Patagonia Argentina. Patagonia is a big region (at the south of Chile and Argentina), a territory, then a clothes company, so the right heading should be “founder of Patagonia Inc.” ;-)
    Here you could read about “some conflicts” between that company and our Patagonia:

  9. Absolutely inspiring. I am in Canada – and this leaves me both inspired to be the change – and absolutely embarrassed that my country does not take a strong stand on sustainability.

    I have always strived to embrace the “Triple Bottom Line” – People, Planet, Profit. It keeps me going and keeps me striving towards making my business successful.

    Thank you Swiss Miss for the continued inspiration.

  10. Thanks Tina for the everyday inspiration and joy that you give us.You might want to check out the documentary Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox! It was very inspiring to me.

  11. great video…i just came across a book the other day that you might be interested in called ‘Give and Take’ by Adam Grant. It would fit into your category of business success built on giving rather than taking…

  12. “I refuse to believe that in order to super-successful you have to be ruthless and unethical.”

    Why is that even a proposition, ie that you have apparently considered as necessary?

  13. It’s going to be finish of mine day, but before ending I am reading this great paragraph to increase my