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How Patagonia became the B Corps poster child

A boat sails past the Serrano glacier next to Puerto Eden at the Patagonia region some 2300 km south of Santiago
Reuters/Simon Gardner
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  • Cassie Werber
By Cassie Werber

Reporter

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.

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