You don’t have to spend much time in the corporate sustainability world before someone mentions Patagonia. The US outdoor-wear brand seems to have achieved an alchemy of purpose and profitability that others, hopeful they can keep making money while also doing good, avidly seize upon.
Patagonia is a B Corporation, a class of companies set up to eschew traditional accountability solely to shareholders, in favor of a more diffuse and inclusive set of stakeholders including customers, employees, communities, and the planet. Patagonia’s story appears to fit perfectly with the vision of B Lab, the nonprofit that guides companies through the B Corp certification process. At conferences or in articles about B Corps, Patagonia almost invariably comes up; it’s often the first B Corp anyone names.
So it comes as a surprise to hear that there was a time when Patagonia, the poster-child for purpose, didn’t want to become a B Corp at all.