Chouinard&Brown-1997 - A P P L I C AT I 0 N S Going...

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AP P LI C AT I0 N S Going Organic Converting Patagonia’s Cotton Product Line Yvon Chouinard Michael S. Brown Patugonia, Inc. Ventura, California, USA Keywords apparel Summary applications of industrial ecology I The integration of industrial ecology principles into a busi- ness may mean significant changes in its customary activi- ties. In this article, we present a case study of a decision by Patagonia, a manufacturer and distributor of clothing and gear for outdoor sports, to use only organically grown cot- ton for our cotton products as of spring I996.We describe the history of our efforts to reduce our environmental im- pacts, the relationship between understanding the life-cycle impacts of garments in general and cotton in particular on our decision, and the changes required throughout the company to implement the decision. Although initial sales of the organic cotton products have met or exceeded ex- pectations, most customers continue to buy our products for traditional reasons: quality, fit, styling, and brand. We struggle to change consumer perceptions about the envi- ronmental significance of their purchases and influence major apparel manufacturers to make a similar switch. Our experience suggests, first, that consumers and industry need to understand the principles of industrial ecology and, second, that environmental improvements must be inte- grated into all aspects of operations (e.g., marketing). An unexpected benefit of the decision was an increase in our greening the supply chain materials selection organic cotton Patagonia Address correspondence to: Michael Brown Patagonia, Inc. 259 West Santa Clara Street Ventura, CA 93001 USA knowledge about the garment life cycle, which in turn im- proves our ability to develop new fabrics when off-the- shelf products do not meet our needs. Much remains to be done, howevel; to reduce impacts associated with other as- [email protected] pects Of our products and corporate activities. 0 Copyright 1997 by the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology and Yale University Volume 1, Number 1 Journol of
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1 APPLICATIONS Introduction Imagine waking up one morning and realiz- ing that what you thought was the right thing to do turns out to be an environmental disaster. We experienced that epiphany. Patagonia makes clothing and gear for outdoor sports ranging from climbing to surfing to fly-fishing. One day it became very clear to us that one of the pri- mary materials that goes into our line of outdoor clothing products, cotton as it is conventionally grown with synthetic chemicals, may be the most environmentally damaging fiber available. This knowledge is not easily assimilated when one is predisposed to think that “natural” is bet- ter than synthetic, and that one must contem- plate acting on this realization.
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This note was uploaded on 08/06/2008 for the course ESM 289 taught by Professor Geyer during the Spring '07 term at UCSB.

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Chouinard&Brown-1997 - A P P L I C AT I 0 N S Going...

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