Patagonia puts reuse before profit and asks customers to ‘buy less’

Patagonia, the US outdoor clothing company, has launched an initiative to encourage customers to repair, reuse and recycle items of clothing and equipment bought from its stores - effectively getting them to buy less.

Under its Commons Threads scheme which markets itself as ‘Reduce what you buy’, the Californian textile designer will offer a repair service for a small fee, with a 10-day turnaround, for its goods. It will also help customers sell their clothes online via eBay or on its own online resell channel.

The scheme is thought to be a pioneering first in the global retail sector as it embodies mutual responsibility between company and customer for the full lifecycle of a product. Patagonia prides itself on making high-end quality clothing that lasts and is worth keeping rather than throwing away.

Speaking to business media brand Fast Company, Patagonia’s environment vice-president, Rick Ridgeway, said that the rationale behind the initiative was a sincere response to environmental issues.

“We do what feels right, and we go by instinct. We have no way of knowing how this will affect our sales one way or another. But what we are watching are the mega-trends. Anyone who can read can see that we are heading for a cliff.”

He added that the company wanted to challenge the traditional ‘buy more’ business model, and highlighted the need for companies to look at environmental issues in a more fundamental, long-term way.

“The assumption that we can continue on a growth economy is flawed in the long term. We need to start talking about what we are going to do about it. All apparel companies have to ask where they are going to be in five, 10, 20 years’ time, when the natural resources of this planet are in increasingly critical condition.”

Patagonia claims it will not make any money from the scheme, but if profit is made from the Common Threads initiative, Patagonia has pledged to give a percentage to environmental groups.

Maxine Perella

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