Action Works: Patagonia opens pop-up activist café in London

The pop up opened on Thursday (26 September) and will run for three weeks. Image: Patagonia

The Broadway Market location, called Action Works Café, will offer visitors the chance to “learn how to make a positive difference”, according to Patagonia.

The company will use the space to host training sessions around activism, workshops on topics such as carbon literacy, habitat conservation and non-violent direct action. These events will be run by environmental and social experts from non-profits to have been supported through Patagonia’s 1% For The Planet scheme, whereby it gives 1% of its annual profits to good causes.

Additionally, the space will act as a lending library for those seeking to read books written by thought leaders and activists and play host to a library of ‘Action Postcards’. Each of the 24 postcard designs details different actions the reader can take to combat climate change and biodiversity loss, from signing petitions to filing lawsuits.

Outside of the café, on Broadway Market itself, Patagonia staff and green campaign groups will be running stalls aimed at educating, inspiring and engaging passers-by. The café and the stalls will be open daily until 17 October.

The café forms part of the expansion of Patagonia’s Action Works platform – a digital community that connects local communities with grassroots organisations – into Europe, following its success in the US.

“We want to help more people go further in their environmental activism; the platform should be an entrance into activism for first-timers and a place to connect and share for those who have already begun,” Patagonia’s director of environmental initiatives Mihela Hladin Wolfe said.

Speaking to edie for a recent interview, Hladin Wolfe explained that the expansion of Action Works demonstrates Patagonia’s willingness to engage in, and adapt in line with, climate activism. The firm notably took part in the Global Climate Strike on 20 September, along with the likes of Lush, SodaStream and Ben & Jerry’s.

“Businesses need to be held accountable by others for their role in contributing and mitigating climate change,” Hladin Wolfe told content editor Matt Mace. “In terms of response, businesses shouldn’t be looking at short-term solutions, or just a few proof points that show that a business is doing something. You need to influence and engage, and you might need to change to be able to do that.”

Brand activism

With the Climate Strike movement having grown from a one-person protest outside Sweden’s Government building to a global phenomenon, more and more businesses are getting involved with corporate activism.

The Body Shop, for example, has fitted an “activist workshop” at its flagship Bond Street store as part of the building’s refurbishment. This space gives visitors the information and infrastructure they need to get involved with good causes on an international, national or local scale, including an interactive screen, a noticeboard and a donation box. The first causes to be showcased in this way are Plastics For Change, which is striving to expand the plastics recycling economy in developing nations, and anti-period-poverty campaign Bloody Good Period.

Elsewhere, Microsoft recently partnered with Friends of the Earth to host a climate action campaign centred around education and behaviour change. Called “Empowering the Planet”, the campaign featured news articles, petitions, features and advice on joining the Climate Strike movement.

But Patagonia is widely regarded as one of the longest-term activist brands. It has run communications campaigns urging people not to buy its products in order to conserve natural resources; produced activist films aimed at protecting wild rivers and fish populations; joined the “We Are Still In” movement in the US and filed a lawsuit against President Trump after his government illegally reduced the size of two national monuments.

Sarah George

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