Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company known as much for its creative approach to environmental responsibility as for its clothing, announced today at Fast Company's Innovation Uncensored conference that it has made an investment in Yerdle, an app that lets people give away items and get redeemable credits in exchange, through the company's $20 Million & Change internal venture fund.
In 2013, the company leveraged its financial success to start the fund, which invests in socially and environmentally responsible startups in the clothing, food, water, energy, and waste industries. "We like the idea of the [Yerdle] model because it keeps products in exchange, it keeps them out of landfills," says Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia.
According to Marcario, the primary lens that Patagonia evaluates companies through is a simple one: "Will this company be able to influence and change what's going on with the environmental crisis?
This isn't Patagonia's first attempt at impacting the greater sustainability space. In 2011, the company made waves by announcing that it wants customers to buy less, asking them instead to repair, reuse, and recycle Patagonia clothing and apparel. On Black Friday of this past year, Patagonia released Worn Wear, a mini-documentary featuring customer stories of the Patagonia items they've owned forever.
More recently, Patagonia even funded a full-length film about dam removal, called DamNation.
Patagonia is also a benefit corporation, which means that is has to consider its impact not just on shareholders, but on the environment, workers, and the community. "Patagonia is like the original benefit corporation in a way. A for-benefit corporation says, 'Look, profit is important, but what's just as important is the environment and the community,'" says Marcario. In California, the company was in fact the first registered benefit corporation.
Marcario's advice for people who want to be agents of change in their own companies: "You can ask questions about the job that you're doing, you can inspire your employees to look at what they're doing differently...you can have a lot of impact even if you're in an existing status quo that doesn't support 100% what you're doing."