Patagonia Director of Philosophy Vincent Stanley talks business with a social conscience

Doing business with a social conscience is a hot topic in the retail sector at the moment, especially as consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of what they buy and consume. Now, more than ever, retailers’ supply chains are under the microscope and shoppers are demanding to know the exact origins of their product

But long before ‘corporate social responsibility’ became a buzzword, saving the planet has been at the heart of Patagonia since it was launched by mountaineer Yvon Chouinard in 1973 in California. From the retailer’s first involvement in a grassroots initiative to help save a local surf break in the 70s to developing fleece jackets made from recycled plastic, Patagonia’s purpose around helping the environment has always been clear.

Now, businesses around the world are following suit and considering ways in which to find their purpose and help their communities – it’s been dubbed “the new retail”.

“In a time of accelerated environmental and social crisis, each business must examine its own DNA, how it is unique and identify how its purpose can align with social and environmental good. What we make has to be beneficial,” explains Vincent Stanley, director of philosophy at Patagonia.

“At the same time, we all need to identify what practices in our supply chain need to be changed and how we are to go about it. What we make has to be made in a responsible way. Purpose is outward looking: how do we relate to the world in a good way (for the benefit of our customers, employees, communities, the natural world? Transparency is the tool by which we examine the hidden practices done in our name in the supply chain and work for beneficial social and environmental results.”

According to Stanley, Patagonia stores are not only a place for customers to buy products, but a place for the community to meet, have conversations and share similar values. For example, one of the ways that Patagonia encourages its customers to recycle is through its Worn Wear Program. Customers can visit a Worn Wear Repair Hub or drop off their items of clothing in need of repair at any store at no cost. The staff will even fix clothing from other brands for a small fee.

It’s imperative that in order to move into the future, retailers need to listen to the changing needs of their employees and customers, Stanley advises.

“There is a big shift, especially among millennials and those even younger, toward living and working toward their values. We think that shift will grow more pronounced over time as the social and environmental challenges become more pronounced,” he says.

“This will put increasing pressure on retailers to engage on the basis of shared values rather than simple appetite for the new. The new must reflect the realities and answer the problems of our time.”

Inside Retail Academy 2019 will bring together retailers to connect and hear from world class industry leaders who will share their insights on ‘New Retail’ and expectations of the future consumer. It will explore everything from technology and marketing through to payments. Hear from Vincent and another 14 industry leaders on how they are leading the transformation to the way we shop at the Inside Retail Academy event, held as part of Retail Week – 28th February in Melbourne. Please click here to find out how you can reserve your place now. We look forward to seeing you there.