What is the extent of the ethical responsibility of successful corporate companies? In a move aligned with his personal principles, the billionaire founder of outdoor apparel and gear business Patagonia has just turned heads and hit headlines by giving his company away! Yvon Chouinard – the 83 year old who started the business back in 1973 – has
transferred ownership of Patagonia to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit
As reported in the New York Times, the new structure was set up to “preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits – some $100 million a year – are
used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe.”
Is this the future of philanthropy?
Will this bold move spur on other successful people to take similar action in the future? Or
is it an anomaly?
The reality is that large, successful corporations often have the power to make more of a difference than politicians on significant issues of ethics and social responsibility. But every
entrepreneur has different motivations. Some – like Chouinard – never expected to become billionaires, nor are they even motivated by money. Others are driven far more by a desire
to accrue personal wealth.
“Corporate Social Responsibility”, “ESG” and “Sustainability” are all terms that have been thrown about for years in the corporate world with varying degrees of sincerity. But COVID
has heralded a shift. This article in Reworked said it well – COVID has expanded the focus of Corporate Social Responsibility “from sustainability and climate action to how
companies treated employees during the crisis and extended a helping hand to the community.”
The new landscape
Post 2020, the spotlight has been shining more intensely on corporates and their ethical role in the broader community. Surveys regularly show that a very high percentage of
consumers would be willing to switch their allegiance to a brand if they discovered something unsavoury about their ethics.
Having a robust and genuine Corporate Social Responsibility platform makes good business sense as well. Employees want to feel like they are working at an organisation
that walks the talk and puts its money where its mouth is. Put simply, there is greater impetus than ever before for a company to take its ethical
position seriously – and this is only becoming more important with each passing year.