25 october 2022
How to Make the Earth Your Only Shareholder
3 min read
3 min read
In 2017, Forbes magazine declared Patagonia’s founder a billionaire and it really, really pissed him off.
Sphere is a cultural research tool that studies online data and applies machine learning models for deeper, more empathetic insights.

In 2017, Forbes magazine declared Patagonia’s founder a billionaire and it really, really pissed him off.

In a no holds barred New York Times interview, Yvon Chouinard explained why the article felt like a failure in his personal mission of making the world a better and fairer place. It set him off on a quest to seek out a “new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people”.

Six years later, he finally found the solution.

The outdoor clothing company made headlines earlier this month when Chouinard announced his radical decision to give Patagonia away to fight the climate crisis. All ownership held by Chouinard and his family would be transferred to entities committed to driving environmental and social impact, with a priority on biodiversity protection and restoration.

To quote the reluctant businessman: Instead of ‘going public,’ you could say we’re ‘going purpose.’

An avid rock climber since childhood, it’s no surprise that this self-professed existential dirtbag would commit his billion dollar enterprise to fighting ecological destruction.

The brand itself is no stranger to ethical production, having gained repute for slow fashion practices like making durable high-quality products from recycled materials and offering a repair and reuse program.

The brand’s online presence also embodies this ethos across platforms curated with stunning pictures of forests, mountains, and sea, coupled with rugged adventurers biking, hiking and living their best lives.

Using Sphere’s Ad Evaluation app, we analyzed Patagonia’s top YouTube ads to find out how the brand crafted their communications portray their values:

Build the best product

Our criteria for the best product rests on function, repairability, and, foremost, durability. Among the most direct ways we can limit ecological impacts is with goods that last for generations or can be recycled so the materials in them remain in use. Making the best product matters for saving the planet.

Cause no unnecessary harm

We know that our business activity — from lighting stores to dyeing shirts — is part of the problem. We work steadily to change our business practices and share what we've learned. But we recognize that this is not enough. We seek not only to do less harm, but more good.

Use business to protect nature

The challenges that we face as a society require leadership. Once we identify a problem, we act. We embrace risk and act to protect and restore the stability, integrity and beauty of the web of life.

Sphere research app in action: Ad Evaluation

Sphere’s AI model found that the brand’s quality products and sustainable business model resonated the most in their ads. Less so their value of causing less harm.

Here’s what their creative team did:

Build the best product

Brand Value 1

Their assurance of quality is communicated by blue prints of long-lasting designs, and, scenes of products being put to rough use.

Cause no unnecessary harm

Brand Value 2

This value came across the most in one ad. Children are shown enjoying conventionally risky situations, suggesting that doing things differently can result in happier, more fulfilling experiences.

Use business to protect nature

Brand Value 3

This all-encompassing value is communicated with scenes of families living simply and enjoying the outdoors, as well as a heavy focus on the sustainable methods and materials used in Patagonia’s production.

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