The founder of outdoor brand Patagonia has given up his ownership in the business and directed his profits to fight climate change.
Yvon Chouinard, who became famous for alpine climbing in Yosemite National Park and then as an outdoor gear manufacturer, transferred his family’s ownership of Patagonia to two new entities, one of which is a non-profit organization that will use the companies’ annual profits to fight. climate change, the company said in a news release Wednesday.
“Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth, we are using the wealth that Patagonia creates to protect the source. We are making the Earth our only shareholder,” said Chouinard, 83, in the statement.
In a letter to customers, Chouinard said Patagonia is now owned by a trust that will determine the direction of the company and a new non-profit group called the Holdfast Collective, which is dedicated to protecting nature and other environmental causes.
There is no change in the leadership of the company.
“Although we are doing our best to address the environmental crisis, it is not enough,” Chouinard wrote. “… Every year the money we make after reinvesting in the business will be distributed as a dividend to help fight the crisis.”
The company expects to add approximately $100 million to the Holdfast Collective through an annual dividend depending on the success of the businesses.
In questions and answers attached to Chouinard’s letter, the company said that Patagonia continues to be a profitable business as a certified B Corp, a designation for companies that consider factors such as the social and environmental impacts of their businesses.
He added that the Chouinard family will continue to “guide Patagonia’s Purpose Trust, electing and overseeing its leadership” and sitting on Patagonia’s board. The company will “continue to strive to be a great employer.”
Denis Hayes, who coordinated the first Earth Day and is longtime CEO of the Seattle-based environmentalist Bullitt Foundation, said Chouinard is a fierce environmentalist willing to take bold steps and challenge convention. The Patagonia brand, Hayes noted, charges a premium, in part, because of the values it represents.
“Apparently, they’re putting it into the structure that will institutionalize that over its lifetime,” said Hayes, whose foundation operates a for-profit building that he says is the greenest in the world.
Hayes said that conflicts between businesses in manufacturing or extractive industries in a capitalist economy that requires growth are ultimately in conflict with environmental and climate values.
“The concept of putting this together in a new structure and being experimental and bold is exactly the kind of innovation we need to be trying,” Hayes said.
Chouinard started selling climbing equipment such as pitons in 1957, usually from his car.
Later, Chouinard became an advocate of so-called “clean climbing”, in which protective gear is placed and removed from rock walls so that it is not damaged by hammer pins.
He holds several patents, including one for aluminum climbing chocks designed to cause less damage to rock.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com