Patagonia started in 1973 in California and has become a well-loved brand in Japan which now aims to sell goods made from 100% recycled materials in future.
I had a chance to join a community talk session in the Hiroshima Patagonia store and was reminded of the sustainability focus of the shop which is clearly embedded into its design. Everything from providing space for community groups, to a repair and recycle station alongside nets to catch microplastics from fleeces, reusable cutlery sets, and plantbased camping foods. Even the shop’s design took sustainability into account as they have reused waste wood, oyster shells and other waste materials from the Hiroshima area. All of these factors clearly show that management is following Patagonia’s mission to be a sustainable business.
Patagonia has a long history as an ethical business focused on taking care of people and the planet while maintaining a successful, profitable business. Patagonia’s website offers transparency about its Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR), Fairtrade practices, ethical sourcing, recycling, research into microplastics, and the “Worn Wear” initiative encouraging repair and longer use of products fitting perfectly with Japan’s concept of Mottainai.
Thanks to the company’s strong foundation in ethical practices, it is no wonder that Patagonia is also leading the way in recycled and upcycled material manufacturing in its clothing lines. The following well-made video below discusses the issues we face now with overconsumption and waste management issues as our attempts at recycling have failed and we lack infrastructure. Recycling is not the answer to our waste and plastic pollution problems, but used hand-in-hand with decreased consumption can greatly reduce the damaging impact of the retail industry and its effect on our societies and world.
As it is clear from the video that extending the life of products and buying less is a key element of reducing the global impact of buying new products, in addition to offering repair services, it would be great to see a secondhand section appear in Patagonia shops. If good quality used or unwanted items could be donated back to the shops (for a coupon toward future purchases) to be resold at discount prices, it could further extend the life of the products- adding another layer of sustainable infrastructure to the Patagonia model.
In addition to its ethical business mission, Patagonia has also long supported environmental activism and volunteering. Patagonia also supports charitable organizations such as NPO’s in Japan and around the world with grants to help them with their good work for people and the planet.
In Hiroshima, Patagonia was one of the first stores to sign-up for the MyMizu project as it provides free water to customers in reusable cups as well as water bottle refills. The store itself reuses waste materials and environmentally-friendly building techniques. There is a community space in Patagonia shops for sustainability-focused community speaking events, workshops and other activities that support people and the planet. Each Patagonia shop in Japan has its own activities to promote people and the planet. In Hiroshima for example, the shop organizes #cleanup activities once a month and hosts films, guest speakers and other interesting events throughout the year.
As we are in a new era of crisis due to plastic pollution and a lack of solutions to waste management problems, it is so inspiring to see the great example being set by Patagonia as an ethical and innovative business leader.
As consumers, we can also play an important role by making more thoughtful shopping choices. We should only buy the best quality items possible with the intention of using them for as long as possible.