How Patagonia Is Taking on the Sustainable Food Industry

Patagonia, the popular outdoor clothing retailer, has expanded its vision of socially responsible business into the world of sustainably produced foods.
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Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and Managing Director Birgit Cameron are taking sustainable business practices to a whole new level. “We’re in business to save our whole planet,” says Cameron.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and Managing Director Birgit Cameron are taking sustainable business practices to a whole new level. “We’re in business to save our home planet,” says Cameron.

Patagonia Managing Director Birgit Cameron

Patagonia Managing Director Birgit Cameron

If you’re an outdoorsy sort of person, you probably know Patagonia as a purveyor of high-end, environmentally conscious activewear. But what you may not know is that Patagonia has extended its “rescue the planet” mission into the food sector with Patagonia Provisions—and the world will (hopefully) never be the same.

At any rate, that’s the goal of founder Yvon Chouinard and his Managing Director Birgit Cameron. After years of dealing with agriculture in terms of fabrics and supply chains, it became apparent that, as Cameron notes, “food agriculture is one of the biggest reasons for the climate issues we are facing today.” So it became imperative to “tackle the food side of things, to go beyond our mission of building the best product and causing the least amount of harm” to an even greater goal. “We’re in business to save our home planet, and every single choice you make really has to come from that place.”

Cameron has food “in her genes,” as she laughingly explains, with her father and grandfather leading the way. So utilizing her life-long expertise with food in service of her environmental consciousness was a no-brainer.

Determined Development

Their first product was wild sockeye salmon, sustainably sourced from family- and community-operated Alaskan fisheries

Patagonia Wild Sockeye Salmon

Their first product was wild sockeye salmon, sustainably sourced from family- and community-operated Alaskan fisheries. This was followed by pink salmon obtained via the old-school reef-net method of the Lummi tribe in Washington that avoids by-catch and prevents crowding and damage to the fish.

Then they moved from sea to land, and became even more courageously aspirational—they partnered with the Rodale Institute to establish an international certification program for Regenerative Organic Agriculture, now in pilot programs across the globe. “In terms of ecosystems, we don’t need to re-engineer everything,” explains Cameron. “What we have to do is understand how they actually work, and work with them. Then we will have an abundance of food.”

Patagonia’s Buffalo Jerky fell in line with these beliefs, produced from free-roaming American bison. The company expanded into even more arenas—organic soups, breakfast grains, more seafood (including mussels), and fruit-and-nut bars. All of these offerings are organic, sustainably sourced, “clean,” and produced in service of Patagonia’s ambitious goal to save the planet.

But for Cameron, as for all of the dedicated people at Patagonia, these global ideals all come down to the personal, to the urgency of the dilemmas facing us on all sides today. “Having children of my own … well, there’s nothing like that to emphasize, to punctuate the need to do something about the state of our planet. This is a journey that is incredibly inspiring, and provides a lot of hope.”

Food that delights, satisfies, and provides hope—surely we need more of that.

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