For all damage done to our nation by unscrupulous corporations who value profit above all and whose policies degrade our environment, increase inequality, and damage our democracy through their billions of dollars worth of lobbying efforts for their own selfish aims, there are still a few virtuous companies dedicated to a more idealistic vision of the future.
The outdoor clothing and gear manufacturer Patagonia is one of those all too rare corporations with a positive social mission that actually backs up its progressive rhetoric in its actions and business practices.
As a legally registered benefit corporation that includes positive impact on society, workers, the community, and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals, Patagonia has pledged to donate 1% of its total sales revenue to environmental groups to help keep the natural wonders of the world intact for its nature-loving customers.
It has also taken such overtly political actions such as suing the Trump administration over its reduction of federally protected lands in places like Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and donating $1 million to support voting rights efforts in Georgia.
Now Patagonia is taking a costly step against its largest single customer in the Jackson Hole, Wyoming market, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, after the owner of the resort hosted a fundraiser for the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, a group that advocates policies that are in direct opposition to the company’s stated environmental mission.
Patagonia announced earlier this week that it would no longer supply its products to the multiple retail outlets owned by the resort company, seriously undermining its own bottom line strictly out of strongly held moral principles.
The action was inspired by the fundraising of Jay Kemmerer, one of the resort’s owners, who co-hosted an event earlier this month at a luxury hotel in Jackson for the House Freedom Caucus, including Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) as speakers. With a minimum donation of $2,000 per couple, the fundraiser brought in a hefty haul for the far-right extremist faction of the Republican Party.
Corley Kenna, head of communications and policy at Patagonia, told Wyofile.com that the decision was the result of “our really strong commitment to using both our business and our brand to advocate for our strong priorities. When there’s a misalignment on that, then we take action.”
“It is our largest customer in an area — that’s really critical,” she said. “That tells you something about the importance of this relationship. We don’t take ending it lightly.”
According to Wyofile.com:
“Kemmerer’s fundraiser drew a gaggle of protesters, some of whom suggested that skiers and others should no longer support the world-class ski area by buying ski passes or otherwise engaging in business with it, according to reporting by the Jackson Hole News&Guide. One protester, Jorge Colon, said he was willing to cancel the season ski pass he bought to access the expansive ski area, which is internationally known for long runs and radical terrain.”
“’It’s just a shame that it’s gotten to this point,’ Colon, an active septuagenarian who has worked various jobs at the ski area over the decades, told WyoFile. ‘I know they supply a lot of people with work, but to be backing up that group…is pretty embarrassing.’”
“’It’s a shame that those people are doing what they’re doing,’ Colon said of Kemmerer, ‘especially when we know as much as we know today. You can’t get away with that shit in Teton County,’ he said of the fundraiser.’
While the day to day management of the resort has tried to place considerable distance between its owner’s political views and that of the resort itself — which has published op-eds touting its environmental bona-fides in the local newspaper, it would take a lot for the ski area to convince Patagonia to reverse its decision, according to Kenna.
“If owners recommit to priorities ‘especially protecting the planet,’ Patagonia would ‘consider sitting down and talking through that,’ she said,” according to Wyofile.
“This is very much about staying true to our strong feeling and our responsibility as a benefit corporation to stand up for and advance our priorities, our policies to protect our planet and our communities,” Kenna said.
If only the majority of American corporations had the same commitment to progressive values as Patagonia has, perhaps our political situation wouldn’t be as dominated by divisiveness and selfishness as it is today.
Supporting companies like Patagonia who do more than issue meaningless press releases in response to pressing social issues is something that everyone who supports progressive politics should be trying to do as they compile their shopping lists.
Original reporting by Angus M. Thuermer Jr. at Wyofile.com.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.