The clothing company Patagonia prides itself on being an environmentally and socially responsible business. In line with its mission to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis,” the company developed the Common Threads Partnership with eBay, directing Patagonia customers to an online auction platform through which they could purchase used Patagonia clothing directly from other customers. While eBay received commission fees, Patagonia did not. The partnership’s launch campaign included details on the pernicious environmental effects of clothing production, urged potential patrons “Don’t Buy This Jacket” and encouraged them to sign a pledge to buy Patagonia goods used, when possible. Would the campaign’s commitment to sustainability prove sustainable from a business perspective?
Patagonia invested capital in advertising and the development of the Common Threads portal, as well as real estate on its website and the attention of its valuable customer base. In the first few years, 5 percent of visitors to the Patagonia site clicked over to Common Threads, 250,000 people signed the pledge, and awareness spread of the brand, the company’s mission and its products’ durability.
Read more about how Patagonia remained true to its mission and increased engagement with its customer base in Rebecca Goldberg (MBA ’03) and Professor Ronald T. Wilcox’s article “Patagonia Urged Buyers to Pick Used Items Over New. It Was a Success.” in the Darden School of Business/Washington Post “Case in Point” series.