The Responsible Company, a how to guide for responsible businesses

by Kiersen Nichols

In a time of environmental and economic crisis Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley have created a light of practicality, clarity, and hope with their new book “The Responsible Company”. The seasoned mountain man and Patagonia founder Yvon along with company vice president Vincent took the stage at the Yale Center for business to speak about facing the limits of the economy and maintaining a thriving business while being cognizant of environmental factors. Together, the two brought forth the overall message of simplicity, quality, and knowledge.

  • The duo explained the book as a ‘how to’ guide for responsible businesses. This idea came from a grassroots creation called Napa Green which outlined actions of sustainability wineries and vineyards could be taking.  These actions manifested in a checklist; should a grower or producer meet a given percentage of sustainable requirements they receive a Napa Green certification. “The Responsible Company” comes with a similar checklist for companies and businesses.  This checklist reminds companies of the actions they can be taking and also ignites an interest in finding more ways to be environmentally conscious.  With this comes the understanding of not just the product itself, but what the product produces.  The two men emphasized the waste products of production; how much water is used, where that water came from, etc.  Knowing these things are what makes for a responsible business.

Surviving in an economic downturn while remaining kind to the environment is not as hard as one would think, according to Yvon.  During a recession people are less frivolous, they want practical products that are functional and made to last.  Yvon stated that he believed that any trouble in business or question in business can be answered by increasing the quality of the product.  

In the United States the production line has been completely removed.  There is little knowledge of where and how products are produced.  Yvon expressed adoration for small scale, labor intensive work that employs more people in meaningful jobs.  By doing this one not only creates a better product but they help the economy.  

The simplest answer, he says, is normally the correct one, and right now most companies involved in large scale production are overly complicated.  Vincent Stanley added that large scale production requires less knowledge and less effort; it also requires less jobs and a more poorly created product.  

Mr. Stanley pointed out that in the future, for a business to survive with the ecological limitations we will face or exceed, the manager must have a better understanding of his/her operation, more knowledge about his trade.  This idea was relayed back from an environmentalist side - that businesses need to learn from nature rather than actively acting against it.  Nature loves diversity, hates mono culture  and that is how a successful business must be run - without conglomeration.

The conversations of business and conservation were nothing short of philosophical.  It is amazing what Patagonia has been able to achieve through taking risks and being vigilant.  Care for quality and ethical treatment has led to an inspirational and successful company.   

In the end Yvon admitted that running a responsible company can be “a pain in the ass”; however, it is the business owners duty to the consumer and the environment to ensure that sustainable and healthy practices are followed.

The Responsible Company, a how to guide for responsible businesses

Robin Wade