Veteran climber and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has always searched for ways to make his pursuits conform to his deeper values. Even in his early climbing days, he had a desire to make do with less, and to experience the earth’s wonders with respect and wonder. After he made the first ascent of the Muir Wall on El Capitan in 1965, he enthused the prospect of living off of ten raisins a day, and, in his words, “whatever he could pick off the land.” Now, after fifty years, he is divesting himself of the assets of Patagonia, Inc., a company that has made him rich, but also gave him an opportunity to speak and act on behalf of the environmental issues he truly cares about.
“It’s been a half-century since we began our experiment in responsible business,” said Chouinard. “If we have any hope of a thriving planet 50 years from now, it demands all of us doing all we can with the resources we have. As the business leader I never wanted to be, I am doing my part. Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth, we are using the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source. We’re making Earth our only shareholder. I am dead serious about saving this planet.”
Chouinard will remain on the board of directors, as will Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, former partner of Chouinard’s early climbing partner and business mentor, Doug Tompkins.
“I first met Yvon when he was around 24 and today,” said McDivitt. “He is almost 84. In all those years, his vision has never wavered. He wanted to do things his own way and on his own terms. And while he is in good health now, he wanted to have a plan in place for the future of the company and the future of the planet. I believe this plan that he and his family helped create is tectonic. It will make the company more competitive and its employees around the world will forever be empowered by purpose.”
“I never wanted to be a businessman,” says Chouinard. “I started as a craftsman, making climbing gear for my friends and myself, then got into apparel. As we began to witness the extent of global warming and ecological destruction, and our own contribution to it, Patagonia committed to using our company to change the way business was done. If we could do the right thing while making enough to pay the bills, we could influence customers and other businesses, and maybe change the system along the way.”
Climbers the first ascent of the North Face of Mount Edith Cavell and the Beckey Chouinard on Howser Tower in the Bugaboos in 1961. He became a key figure in the golden age of Yosemite climbing, participating in the first ascent of the North America Wall in 1964 and the Muir Wall in 1965.
Chouinard was also a leading alpinist with the first ascent of a new route on Fitz Roy in 1968. His contributions to hardware design included some of the first commercially available hard steel pitons and clean protection.
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