The billionaire founder of the outdoor fashion brand Patagonia has given away his company to a charitable trust. Yvon Chouinard stated that any profit not reinvested in running the business would go to fighting climate change.
The label is famous for an advert titled “Don’t buy this jacket” asking shoppers to consider costs to the environment.
The brand’s website states: “Earth is now our only shareholder.” Mr. Chouinard has always said he “never wanted to be a businessman”.
The brand was founded in 1973, Patagonia’s sales were worth around $1.5bn this year, while Mr. Chouinard’s net worth is thought to be $1.2bn.
The New York Times once stated that he was “horrified to be seen as a billionaire”.
“Despite its immensity, the Earth’s resources are not infinite, and it’s clear we’ve exceeded its limits,” the entrepreneur said of his decision to give up ownership.
“Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth, we are using the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source.”
The firm’s marketing campaigns ask people to buy only what they need.
The Californian firm was already donating 1% of its annual sales to grassroots activists and committed to sustainable practices.
Similarly, this year, Microsoft founder Bill Gates decided to “drop off” the world’s rich list as he made a $20bn donation to his philanthropic fund.
Last year the boss of the Hut Group, which owns a range of online beauty and nutrition brands, donated £100m to a charitable foundation after becoming a billionaire when his firm was listed. Matthew Moulding said of his newfound wealth that he “couldn’t even comprehend the numbers” and was trying to make a difference.
The Chouinard family has transferred all ownership to two new entities. The Patagonia Purpose Trust, led by the family, remains the company’s controlling shareholder but will only own 2% of its total stock, Mr. Chouinard said.
“Each year the money we make after reinvesting in the business will be distributed as a dividend to help fight the crisis,” Mr. Chouinard said.