Clothing manufacturer recognised for environmental and social ideals

Due to its stewardship of the environment, and its care for its workers, the outdoors clothing company, Patagonia, has moved 17 places up Fortune magazine’s list of the 100 best companies to work for in the US.

Employees of Patagonia are given US$5,000 towards buying lower emission vehicles, allowed to take two months paid leave in order to work as volunteers on environmental projects, provided with free childcare, and given organic food in the cafeteria. New parents are allowed to take two month’s paid parental leave.

Now ranked 41st in Fortune’s list, the company’s Chief Executive Michael Crooke sees Patagonia’s challenge as moving higher up. “There just can’t be 40 other companies out there that are better than Patagonia,” Crooke is reported as saying in the LA Times. “I want to do all we can to be number one. This just tells me we have a lot of work to do.”

Patagonia’s philosophy also extends to the materials used in their clothes, using with 100% organic cotton, as an answer to the 57 million pounds of chemicals used in cotton growing in the US, accounting for 10% of all US agricultural chemicals. According to Patagonia, the move to organic cotton has produced an improved feel to the fabric.

The company also uses artificial fibres in their fleeces. Between 1993 and 1999, Patagonia converted 40 million two-litre plastic drink bottles into a material known as PCR Synchilla, with 3,700 bottles producing sufficient material to make 150 shirts, saving one barrel (42 gallons) of oil.

Patagonia’s headquarters were also built using 90% recycled timbers and 98.5% recycled steel. The building’s insulation also contains 25% recycled glass and no formaldehyde; shower tiles contain 70% recycled glass; and bathroom stall partitions were made with 100% recycled plastic. The lighting is also set up in zones with sensors recognising whether an area has people in it, requiring the lighting to be switched on or off.

According to the LA Times, the company also wears its environmental activism on its sleeve, pledging 1% of sales of 10% of pre-tax profits, whichever is greater, to conservation work. The contributions have so far totalled US$17 million since 1985.

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