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It Can Be Easy Being Green

More and more companies are going green, getting on board the environmental train. Most of them don’t do it only because it allows their executives to sleep better at night. Conserving energy, wastes and smart inventory management are only some of the ways that help companies save money as well as the earth. However, only one company is actually making more money by saying to their consumers “Don’t buy our products unless you really have to”; and encouraging them to buy their products used, from other consumers. Patagonia, a U.S based sustainable clothing company, is doing just that.

Patagonia has always been green, even before most people heard about green initiatives. The company was founded in 1973 by Yvon Chouinard, an environmentalist, and has led the way since, in sustainable clothing. Yet, the rise in consumer awareness in the last decades, brought Patagonia to rethink its strategy. The result was the “Common Thread Initiative” in which over 24 thousand people pledged to buy less and buy used clothes instead of new ones when possible. The company teamed with eBay to launch an official Patagonia online store, where the company itself helps consumers to resell their used products. So far, over 15,000 items were resold in this method.

Yet, despite the initiative consumers are rushing to buy Patagonia items (which are meant to last for life), and the company showed a 30% sales growth in 2009 and 2010, reaching a total sales income of 500 million dollars in 2011. Tough to grasp when the company’s mantra is “Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle”. Right now Patagonia’s branding is working: they are making quality clothes that last, promote a positive message and are very appealing to the public - which results in consumers flocking over and increasing sales. But one must ask, while the clothes they make are sustainable, is the company itself sustainable? Is the growth sustainable?

Patagonia’s success, along with the success of sites like Kickstarter and the rise of CrowdSourcing and crowd funding, marks the corner stone of a new trend in business - a trend that is centered on trusting the consumer and trusting the company. If during the old days a company thought that it knows best, that consumers are stupid and will gobble up anything that you throw at them, today’s scene is changing. Companies rely on consumers to tell them how to act, what to make and how to make it. Companies are finding out that doing the right thing in the grand scheme of things can be more profitable than acting on selfish needs alone. It’s a wave of optimism that’s sweeping the global markets, but is especially evident in the U.S. A wave, that I hope, much like Patagonia’s clothes – will be sustainable.

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