Friday, November 25, 2011

A New Kind of Corporate Model

I hate Black Friday. I hate how it turns our holiday season into an excuse for conspicuous consumption. I hate the kind of people who would spend all night hanging out at some stupid mall in the hopes of getting a sale on some idiotic item that they probably didn't need anyway. But most of all I hate what the consumeristic mindset represented by this day has done to our planet--a planet, basically, that we are destroying in our never-ending lust to acquire more and more stuff.

That's why I was so delighted to wake up this morning and find this ad from Patagonia staring me right in the face.

Patagonia, in case you don't know, is a fairly high-end American outdoorsy clothing store, that probably has been doing fairly well during the recent economic crisis, because its clothing items appeal to the kinds of affluent individuals who can easily afford to buy them. They didn't need to run this ad, but they did it anyway, and, for that, I think they deserve no small amount of credit.

The "Don't Buy This Jacket" ad is part of Patagonia's Common Threads Initiative that encourages consumers not to buy things they don't need, to keep the items they buy for as long as possible, to repair them when they are are broken, and to recycle items that are hopelessly worn out, rather than just throwing them out.

Why is Patagonia going through all this bother when a campaign like this probably won't increase their sales in the short-term significantly? I'm going to give the company the benefit of the doubt and assume that, unlike at most American companies, the people who run Patagonia actually give a damn about the future of the planet. Maybe they have children or grandchildren and don't like the idea of bequeathing them a planet that will be much less hospitable than the one we are already inhabiting.

I'd also like to think that maybe Patagonia is on to something that other American and multinational companies just don't get--namely, that the pursuit of short-term profits at all costs is not a sustainable business model. In a time when many people, including those who make a decent living, can no longer afford to squander their resources on crap they really don't need, it may be time for companies to start producing items that are so well-made that they can be used year-in and year-out without replacement, and to charge prices that reflect the high-quality of this craftsmanship.

Ultimately, this sort of business model would be good for the consumer (less money spent over the long-haul), good for businesses (they still would make a decent profit from selling fewer items at a higher cost), and good for the planet (less crap in our landfills).

Of course, a consumption tax would also have the same benefits, but without insuring that the items produced would ultimately be of a high quality. Besides, no one in government today has balls to propose anything even remotely like a consumption tax. So until we have a third party that actually is beholden to the interests of the American public, we need to speak as consumers with every purchase that we make, rewarding businesses like Patagonia that try to do the right thing for the planet and punishing those that don't.

I don't need to buy a winter coat any time soon: the two I have are about 10 years old and doing just fine, thank you. But when I finally break down and decide to buy a new coat, you can be well-assured that I will check out what Patagonia has to offer...specifically because of this campaign.

Perhaps you should consider doing the same.


  1. Ha, I beat you. I have had my one winter coat for 15 years, but of course I live in Texas!

  2. I'm still happy to concede the victory to you! Even in a cold climate like New York, all you really need is one good coat.

  3. People, especially young individuals are so caught up with the latest "trends" and want to look up to date like everyone else. I can admit, I have gotten caught up into that before but now that I am getting older and have more responsibilities and expenses to entail, I don't mind having something for a good amount of time. As long as it does not have a few rips and tears, then I will be fine. Whenever I can, I'll spoil myself when I deserve it, but other than that I am happy and comfortable with the things I already own.

  4. I am quiet happy with my wool coat that I got as a hand me down from my grandma when I was little. It use to be big on me but now it fit just fine. I have no idea how old it is all I know is it is older then me which is more then 22 years right now. So I haven't had a need or desire to buy a plastic jacket.


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