No commercial, no billboards, no campaign when Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard announced this week he would be donating all company shares to charitable causes, he wrote a letter. The humble display follows suit to the founder’s anti-consumerism mindset, but further, it serves as a reminder to marketers that values shouldn’t rest at the surface.
Marketers taking on smaller sustainability efforts than Patagonia couldn’t hurt as they appeal to consumer sentiments, though such efforts would be unsuccessful without coming from a place of authenticity, said Ken Beaulieu, senior vice president of the ANA Center for Brand Purpose in an email.
As sustainability has risen as a priority, many brands have used it as a marketing tool but failed to take any sort of true action, known to critics as “greenwashing.”
Patagonia’s shakeup could also run the potential for companies to be held accountable for making false promises to shoppers as they chase profits, and in many ways, the spotlight could also remain on the brand as some await to see if they will use a move praised for its modesty in more profit-driven ways.