“Watch it” is the most important thing we can say about the September 27, 2012 Livestream interview with Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley at Yale University. They provide us with a successful model of a new way of doing business that’s responsible to the earth and its inhabitants. The event was sponsored by the Yale School of Divinity, Yale School of Management and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
The subject of the interview is Chouinard and Stanley’s book, The Responsible Company, and how Patagonia (the company) is making every effort to reduce or eliminate its impacts, and those of its products, while continuing to grow and remain profitable. They acknowledge the path is hard, often uncharted and unfinished. As Chouinard puts it:
Living the examined life in business is a pain in the ass but it’s something we have to do.
While not easy, the journey has also been rewarding for Chouinard, Stanley and the Patagonia family. Their story and the practical measures that everyone can take to become more responsible are important and inspiring. However, they begin the book with this caution:
The impoverishment of our world and the devaluing of the priceless undermines our physical and economic well being (emphasis added).
Their experience and example are relevant to place-based conservation efforts like ours, as we see even well-intended local, state and federal politicians look to the old failed economy—logging and mining—for ways to solve the funding woes of rural Oregon counties. See for example, this recent article in the Oregonian.
Instead we need to be looking for solutions that address the excesses and causes of the worst recession since the Great Depression—with changes made there and in ways Patagonia, the responsible company, shows can be done—because as one fisheries scientist put it:
“If there ever was such a thing as a free lunch, we ate it.”
We can no longer afford to “devalue the priceless” and “undermine” the very things that sustain sustain us and life on earth, our watersheds, forests, grasslands and rivers.
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