Walking the Green Talk = Smart Business? [Patagonia cut product line 30%]

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jan 29, 2009
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Two styles of ski pants may be ‘all anyone needs‘…it may be the noble, right thing to do, to cut your line 30%…it may engender loyalty in consumers, as it has with me…but is walking your green talk really make for good business?

Excerpt critical of Patagonia:

…via Kelly Spors, I read this essay at GreenBiz.com by Joel Makower, author of one seminal book for the current “green” movement, The Green Consumer. His argument, as I understand it, is that the “going green” business practice needs to be more than just putting out environmentally-friendly products and making those products in green-conscious ways. It also needs to take on the problem of what Makower sees as excessive consumption: people buying too many things.

Encouraging your customers to buy less stuff? Seems paradoxical, but Makower gives an example of something Patagonia did recently: it cut down on 30 percent of its clothing line, deciding that, in the words of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, “two styles of ski pants are all that anyone needs.”

For me, this is where the whole “going green” mantra goes off-course. It’s one thing for businesses to offer products that cater to consumers’ desire to be kinder to the environment.  That is simply what good entrepreneurs do: they see something that people want, and they provide it for a price. And running your business in an energy-efficient way is, again, just a smart business practice.

But it’s quite another thing for businesses to take it upon themselves to diminish the “problem” of a materialist society.

First, this has problems as a business practice. This is pretty much the exact opposite of “the customer is always right.” The customer wants ten different styles ski pants? Sorry, buddy–Yvon Chouinard knows exactly how many you need. But, of course, there’s nothing stopping the customer from going to the next guy…

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About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


2 Responses to “Walking the Green Talk = Smart Business? [Patagonia cut product line 30%]”

  1. Max says:

    The Bandyk article takes Patagonia to task for deciding the customer who wants ten kinds of ski pants isn’t always right, but he doesn’t acknowledge the role of marketing in creating desire for more and more choices and more and more pairs of pants. It’s a big factor to ignore.

    So if Yvon Chouinard has decided to get out of the business of stimulating desire for Stuff We Don’t Need, I can only admire him more.

    PS Patagonia is the only catalog I get that I actually *want* to get.

  2. […] never ceases to impress me with its eco-responsible, mission-driven, successful business practices—what other company goes out of its way to discourage you from […]