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About Sustaining Voices

Sourcing Journal’s Sustaining Voices celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.


Patagonia is fighting climate change with political action, sustainable materials and regenerative agriculture.

Deep Dive

Patagonia is nearly as much an activist group as it is an outdoor-apparel manufacturer. It’s right there in its mission statement, which was updated last year to read, “We’re in business to save our home planet.”

Few brands are as consistently and vociferously devoted to environmental advocacy. After receiving an unexpected $10 million from Uncle Sam’s tax cuts in 2018, Patagonia announced it was giving it all away to grassroots organizations combatting climate change. Besides speaking out against the Trump administration’s plan to pare back the boundaries of two national monuments in Utah, it recently endorsed for the first time political candidates who will defend public lands against similar encroachment.

To connect customers, employees and the environmental community, the company launched Patagonia Action Works to facilitate more than 15,000 hours of skill-based volunteering for green causes in 2018 alone. And when it became clear that raising wool bore a toll on the planet—requiring not only vast tracts of land for grazing but also significant amounts of energy, water and chemicals to turn shorn fleece into dyed wool products—the brand began sourcing recycled wool to create a new “evolved” poly-blend fleece known as “woolyester.” To shrink its impact further, Patagonia has been blending pesticide-free organic cotton with resource-efficient hemp and polyester derived from recycled plastic bottles to create Fair Trade-certified clothing for men and women.

Materials matter a great deal to Patagonia, though it’s no surprise. Almost 86 percent of its carbon emissions, according to a life-cycle assessment, derives from the procurement stage. But switching from virgin to recycled materials can reduce the brand’s footprint by 13,000 tons of CO₂, a spokesperson said. For spring 2020, 75 percent of all Patagonia’s synthetic materials will have recycled origins. By 2025, it will use only 100 percent recycled, renewable or bio-based materials.

Last year, Patagonia teamed up with the Rodale Institute-led Regenerative Organic Alliance to introduce the Regenerative Organic Certification, a “holistic agriculture” certification that encompasses “pasture-based animal welfare, fairness for farmers and workers, and robust requirements for soil health and land management.”

Regenerative agriculture holds great promise as a solution to the climate crisis, the spokesperson said, because organic, low- and no-till practices help rebuild healthy soil that draws carbon back into the ground.

All of this is part of Patagonia’s plan to become completely carbon neutral across its entire business, including its supply chain, by 2025, even as it continues to grow.

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