Yvon Chouinard has been awarded the CWRU Inamori Ethics Prize. Yvon Chouinard, at age 14, was a member of the SCFC, or the Southern California Falconry Club, which spent its time training hawks or falcons to hunt. In 1953, through this club, Yvon Chouinard was taught how to climb, or rappel, down the cliffs to reach the falcon nests and became a “climber.” He fell in love with the act of climbing and ended up learning how to climb as well as rappel, traveling across the state to climb. At the time, the only way to climb was to use soft iron, which stayed in the rock – this meant for each climb, climbers had to use hundreds of the “pitons,” or spikes that climbers drive into the rock. Yvon Chouinard decided to make his own reusable equipment to make the climb easier for himself and his fellow climbers from the Sierra Club.
Yvon Chouinard began to teach himself how to blacksmith in 1957 in order to make this reusable hardware for climbing. Soon, his friends heard about his new invention and started to buy them for $1.50 each. This was the beginning of Patagonia Incorporated. Of course, the Patagonia Incorporated of 2013 is much different than the small friends-only business Yvon Chouinard started in 1957. Now, Patagonia Inc. is a global business that sells clothes for climbing, skiing, and many other outdoorsy activities. Patagonia Inc. focuses on sports that are for the connection with nature rather than the cheering of a crowd. The company is focused on minimalism, and the products they sell never contain motors – they only sell things for “silent sports.”
The start of Patagonia Inc. was based on a love for the beauty of the outdoors, and with that in mind, the company has spent time trying to save the environment. The company, and in particular Yvon Chouinard, is committed to reversing the decline of the global environment. Not only do they spend time volunteering, but they also give at least 1% of their sales to grassroots environmental groups through their earth Tax Fund around the globe – with such a large company, but this is also no small feat. In addition, the company uses many sustainable practices, such as using recycled polyester and organic cotton for their clothing.
Due to this commitment to the environment, Yvon Chouinard has been awarded the Inamori Ethics Prize. The reasons that Yvon Chouinard was awarded the Ethics Prize? Primarily, Yvon Chouinard and Patagonia Inc. have their focus on employee wellness and their focus on the environment. Not only does Patagonia Inc. have flexible hours and onsite daycare, but the company uses solar panels to give its headquarters 10% of its total energy (located in California). Yvon Chouinard is being awarded for his “conscientious, humanistic business approach,” and is honored for “his integrity as a business leader and [his] lifetime commitment to corporate social responsibility.”
Yvon Chouinard was a pioneer in the idea of corporate social responsibility. From the start, he wanted to help the environment and keep the world beautiful. This Ethics Prize honors him for staying true to his values. Still, he is just one man of one corporation – many other corporations have followed suit and are also committed to corporate social responsibility. Profit and corporate social responsibility do not have to be two separate ideas. Rather, a business can focus on profit, but still, help the world and communities around them. If enough businesses commit to this idea, then perhaps reversing the decline in the global environment is not such a far-fetched idea.
– Corina Balsamo