Online Trends

Patagonia founder gives away company — and racks up huge social media numbers as a result

Earlier this week, news broke that Patagonia Inc.’s Yves Chouinard would give away his entire company to a trust. This is to ensure that all of the company’s profits would go directly to environmental causes. “Earth is now our only shareholder”, Chouinard said in a statement announcing the handover. 

This unprecedented move received a powerful response — the company registered its strongest social media performance in the last three years. 

Patagonia's mentions shot straight up once the news broke.

Patagonia’s mentions shot straight up once the news broke.

Although the company is known for its activism — their last comparable media peak happened after they joined a boycott of Facebook’s inaction on hate speech — the news has certainly turned heads. After all, not many (if any!) companies are ready to abandon the profit incentive. 

Universally welcomed news

The news of Patagonia’s new course comes at a time of alarming climate news. We just saw disastrous flooding in Pakistan which displaced 33 million people from their homes. Britain experienced the hottest summer on record. The Mediterranean countries experienced unprecedented wildfires.

Among these disasters — and continuous urging from climate scientists for more decisive actions — it’s small wonder that such a bold step from Patagonia met with such praise. The news was unanimously well-received.

Just under 3% of all mentions for the brand in the past week were unambiguously negative.

Just under 3% of all mentions for the brand in the past week were unambiguously negative.

News outlets drive the conversation

It was news organisations and individual reporters that drove the conversation. The New York Times, Reuters and Bloomberg received the most engagement on their tweets on the topic.

Patagonia’s announcement tweet garnered almost 130 thousand likes and over 27 thousand retweets as of this writing. 

Individual reporters also contributed heavily to the conversation. An honourable mention goes to David Gelles, who initially broke the news on Twitter, late Wednesday evening.

Overall, the company has noted a three thousand per cent increase in mentions. This is a staggering result! 

Most brands can only imagine such a staggering social media result!

Most brands can only imagine such a staggering social media result!

Patagonia — unapologetically responsible

Patagonia’s social media success can be attributed not only to the boldness of its decision but also to its history. Throughout its existence, the company has consistently supported environmental causes, often with blunt messaging.

Take for instance their decision to highlight the US Government’s decision to reduce the size of two national parks in 2017. This blunt, direct, and political style of messaging isn’t anything new, at least not to Patagonia. Their environmentally-conscious image has been built on a sincere and honest approach to both the business and the politics of global trade. 

In a blog post explaining its production pipeline, Patagonia calls out by name the trade agreements that made it impossible for the American manufacturing industry to survive. The company has a documented history of fighting such agreements. In 2011, the brand launched a full-scale campaign called “Don’t Buy This Jacket” to bring awareness to sustainability concerns.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed by consumers. Patagonia is one of the biggest outdoor clothing brands in the world, with average annual sales of over one billion dollars. The irony of such sales numbers despite the company’s anti-consumerist stance is not lost on its employees.

Their approach to sustainable practices also stands in stark contrast to its competitors — and the world of business in general. Greenwashing is a term coined in the 1980s by environmentalist Jay Westerveld. It describes companies that take token steps to supposedly reduce their environmental footprint — often while overlooking truly problematic practices. The world of clothing is one of the biggest greenwashing offenders, with the “fast fashion” phenomenon contributing around 10% of global carbon emissions.

It’s not hard to see, then, why consumers appreciate Patagonia’s efforts. Here is one company that practices what it preaches. As we’ve often mentioned in our articles about social listening, one thing is abundantly clear. Sincerity works! Consumers appreciate brands that take stances on important issues — and those who put their money where their mouth is reap the biggest benefits.

The data used to write this article was captured with SentiOne Listen, our flagship social listening solution. If you’re interested in monitoring every important trend and topic on the internet, don’t wait — get in touch with us and book your demo today!