Patagonia CEO & President Casey Sheahan Talks Business, Conservation & Compassion

Patagonia CEO & President Casey Sheahan Talks Business, Conservation & CompassionPatagonia doesn’t need any help with marketing their products. In fact, the ad they placed in the New York Times on Black Friday last year said “Don’t Buy This Jacket”.  Don’t be fooled, they still want you to buy their product, but only when you really need it. What does that mean? This marketing conundrum and a number of other insightful ideas on how this company operates were shared by CEO & President Casey Sheahan at the Business of Outdoor Recreation Lecture Series presented by the Outdoor Industry Association and the Leeds School of Business at the Stadium Club on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder.

To be fair, Patagonia is not the only company taking on the dichotomy of sales versus conservation, but they are making the biggest push to promote it. I once sent in my Gregory backpack to have it serviced. I had hauled it to the far corners of the earth and after 15 years it needed some help to stay together. Sending it in, I had only requested one part be re-enforced, but when it came back they had gone over it meticulously and added extra stitches to a number of spots to keep it going. They wanted to see it last another 15 years instead of trying to get me to buy a new one.

Casey mentioned that Patagonia is “…masquerading as an apparel company in order to fund saving the planet.” This is evident in a number of of their initiatives including 1 percent for the planet, the Common Threads Initiative and encouraging folks not to buy the latest and greatest when what you have will work just fine.

Since the focus of the talk was to help inspire and drive the students in the crowd looking to get into the outdoor recreation business themselves, and since many of them carry great hopes of human compassion, earthly sustainability and smart business, Casey threw out a number of gems like this one: When faced with the dip in the economy and laying employees off seemed to be the only solution, Casey’s wife asked him “Are you making this decision in fear or love?” When she put it that way, he realized it was fear that was driving his decisions. They didn’t go through with the layoffs and ended up having record sales and would have been up the creek without those employees.

But don’t take my word for it, see it for yourself. Download Casey’s talk and others from the series here:

About the author

Adventure Correspondent Cameron L. Martindell is a freelance adventure travel and expedition writer, photographer and filmmaker who founded in 2000. He has contributed to Elevation Outdoors Magazine, The Gear Junkie, National Geographic, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Outside, Backpacker, Wired, Australian Geographic, and others. He has been to all seven continents and lived on five of them, including a four-month stint at the South Pole. Cameron has more than 10 years of mountain search and rescue experience, is an Eagle Scout, has been an Australian bush firefighter, competes in sailing regattas, plans national and international youth programs, guides Oregon rafting trips and Australian bush backpacking trips.


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