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Yvon Chouinard donates the Patagonia of Ventura for climate change

Patagonia owner Yvon Chouinard has put his money where his mouth is, announcing this week that he would donate his company Ventura to help fight climate change.

The reaction came quickly that this philanthropic effort could start a broader movement in more meaningful efforts to fight global warming.

Residents welcomed the announcement but were not surprised. Patagonia has resisted tradition throughout its history and championed environmental causes in Ventura and beyond.

“Their consistency in using their entrepreneurial skills to better the planet is and has inspired so many that the ripple effect will continue for many generations,” said Assemblyman Steve Bennett, D-Ventura. “From the start, they had this vision that it’s not just about making money. It’s about why you make money? It’s to protect this natural world that we depend on. all.”

On Wednesday, Chouinard announced that he and his family had transferred ownership of the $3 billion outdoor apparel company to environmental nonprofit Holdfast Collective and Patagonia Purpose Trust, which the company created to “protect the values ​​of the company”. are the new owners.

The Patagonia Purpose Trust owns 2% of the company and all of the voting stock, while the Holdfast Collective owns the remaining 98% of the company.

Patagonia will continue to be a for-profit company and a California for-profit corporation, but each year the money will be plowed back into the company first and the rest will go to the Holdfast Collective to fight climate change, said the society.

Financial contributions to address the climate crisis will total approximately $100 million each year, depending on how the company performs. Patagonia will continue to donate 1% of its annual sales to environmental non-profit organizations, consistent with previous commitments the company made recently.

Bennett has known Chouinard and his wife Malinda since 1989. He hoped the effort would inspire other companies to follow the same path.

“There is going to be a specific impact on the profits that are going to come out every year, the $100 million, but what will be harder to measure is the inspirational impact that will continue to ripple and ripple,” Bennett said. .

Patagonia Works employee Aileen Ottenweller helps put up signs during the “Fight to Stop Ventura SoCalGas Compressor” protest at Kellogg Park in Ventura in July 2021.

Chouinard founded Patagonia in Ventura nearly 50 years ago largely because of the proximity to good surf, spokesman JJ Huggins said. The company awarded its first environmental grant to the Friends of the Ventura River in the early 1970s to prevent the waves of California Street, or C Street, from being ruined by a pipeline project at the mouth of the Ventura River, he said.

“The Friends of the Ventura River have been successful and they have taught us what a small, grassroots environmental organization can accomplish,” Huggins said in a statement. “This laid the foundation for our environmental giving program. Patagonia remains deeply committed to organizations locally and around the world.”

Melissa Baffa, executive director of Ventura Land Trust, was in a car with six colleagues in New Orleans. They were heading to a hotel on Wednesday for a conference when they heard the news.

“A cheer went up in the car,” said Baffa, whose nonprofit has accepted grants from Patagonia and other professional opportunities in the past. “We’re really excited, thrilled. Patagonia has always been a great role model for doing good and doing good. We all saw this as a very positive move on their part and want other companies to follow their lead.”

The announcement sent “shockwaves” through the environmental and philanthropic community, said Ventura resident Tomás Rebecchi.

Rebecchi, Central Coast organizing manager for Food & Water Watch, said Chouinard and Patagonia have supported recent causes such as the attempted closure of a SoCalGas natural gas compressor station in Ventura and the funding of efforts to pass two local measures that would have imposed major restrictions on oil. drilling companies.

Measures A and B ultimately failed in the June primary. Rebecchi said he expects Patagonia to continue to be active on local issues.

“From top to bottom, they are all involved in protecting the planet but also in protecting Ventura,” Rebecchi said. He said Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert and other company representatives attended rallies against the gas compressor.

Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia Works, helps set up signs during the “Fight to Stop Ventura SoCalGas Compressor” protest at Kellogg Park in Ventura in July 2021.

Last year, Chouinard was at a rally at Kellogg Park in Ventura, and Rebecchi didn’t realize who he was. He was struck by the humility of the billionaire.

“He was there with his dog and his canes, and yeah, that definitely doesn’t give off the billionaire vibe,” Rebecchi said.

Philanthropy must be combined with civic-engaged voters to bring about real change, said Patagonia spokesperson Huggins. He said the company was inspired by the Westside Clean Air Coalition and its efforts to stop SoCalGas and its proposed modifications to the compression site near EP Foster Elementary School.

“We need more support for activists like them in Ventura County and around the world, and we need to elect more leaders who share our sense of urgency to save the planet. This is how we will influence the climate policy,” Huggins said.

Kimberly Stroud, executive director and founder of the nonprofit Ojai Raptor Center, said she was not surprised by Chouinard’s announcement. She spent 27 years in Patagonia.

“When he makes up his mind, he goes for it,” said Stroud, who worked with Chouinard for two years on some projects. “So far, it’s always been a very successful move on his part, even though everyone around him will be like, ‘What? What? No, we can’t do that. “”

Stroud is cautious about the impact of Patagonia’s decision if the company stands alone in its large-scale philanthropy.

“Unless people jump on the bandwagon to help…even with Patagonia’s big decision, it won’t be enough to stop what’s happening in this world,” she said. “So if more companies can follow this direction, we can make a difference.”

Sean Anderson, professor and chair of the environmental science and resource management program at CSU Channel Islands, said Patagonia’s actions likely won’t make an immediate difference, but may cause other companies and people to see a new way to fight climate change.

“I don’t think Patagonia itself will lead to a huge change, but if we get two or three more top companies like this, I think…we could be ready for a breakthrough type event” , said Anderson.

USA Today contributed to this report.

Wes Woods II covers West County for the Ventura County Star. Join it at [email protected]805-437-0262 or @JournoWes.

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