Here’s a quick Q&A with someone who has worked for Patagonia for more than 40 years, Vincent Stanley.
Vincent heads up marketing at Patagonia. He’s also co-editor of the Footprint Chronicles, Patagonia’s mini-site that allows customers to track the impact of specific Patagonia products from design through delivery.
Here’s the Q&A, it’s worth two minutes of your time to read it: Patagonia are pretty damn cool on sustainability.
Tell us, in two sentences, what you do?
Vincent Stanley: My major role is working on the intersection of product and environmental stories. Environmentalism affects how we think about product, yet we are a business and primary to us is product quality, innovation and development.
What are the big issues to watch in 2013?
Vincent Stanley: I think that one of the big prospects is the opportunity to work collaboratively with indexes that define social and environmental values. This falls outside de the competitive sphere, because all business have to agree to the same standards and language.
From a consumer perspective, if you go into a store to buy a pair of trainers and you have a price in mind you could make a comparison of environmental impacts. You might decide to spend more if you knew what has gone into a product all the way through the supply chain. You are going to buy the product that suits you but there are a lot of choices within that to help you.
|Coolest ad of 2012?
In your role as vice-president of marketing, what are your priorities for 2013?
Vincent Stanley: We are also doing some work to decentralise marketing and bring it closer to the source, so a lot of my time will be devoted to that. And I wrote a book last year with Yvon Chouinard called The Responsible Company and I’ve been going around to universities talking to students a lot about that.
In terms of corporate responsibility, which industry sector would you pick out to watch, and why?
Vincent Stanley: I don’t think that there’s a particular sector to watch. Autos, electronics and clothing are all going about their work in different ways. They operate on very different scales, of course, so it’s not easy to generalise. I’m eager to see the work of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the eventual development of a consumer index, but that may reflect my parochialism toward our industry.
What will you be talking about at Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Summit, May 7-8 in London?
Vincent Stanley: I’d like to talk about what for us is the holy grail of product development: where we can undertake a new venture as we are with merino wool, where we partner with the Nature Conservancy and wool growers in Patagonia South America who’ve been at their trade for generations. They’re adopting grazing practices that actually improve the quality grasslands and husbandry that yields a higher quality wool. So you have positive social benefits, actually restore the environment as opposed to just reducing harm, and produce a product of unprecedented quality.
Climate change – mitigation or adaptation?
Vincent Stanley: We’re going to have to do both because we’re too late so we’re going to have to adapt as well as mitigate. We need to proceed very quickly to reduce our fossil fuel reliance and to reduce our consumption of things from the planet that we can’t get back.
A government to watch on sustainability?
Vincent Stanley: It depends on the scale. For us in the US our government is fairly useless so we watch the EU. China and Brazil are interesting to watch for the tension between policy and performance. China is slowing down its growth but they’re running out of water and adding a lot of consumers to the consumer economy.
Smaller scale efforts are also interesting to watch. Bhutan, for instance, measures its progress by the level of happiness in the citizenry rather than by GDP.
Corporation tax – higher or lower?
Vincent Stanley: I don’t know the answer to what rates should be, whatever creates more revenue. I do think businesses should pay the taxes they are supposed to.
CR impact – Obama or Xi Jinping?
Vincent Stanley: Because China is not democratic they can accomplish things much more quickly than the US, which is both good and bad. Obama takes a stand when it’s clear an issue is central to the public. So it’s incumbent on us in the private sector and in the citizenry to raise the game about climate change and environmental issues.
“Shared value” or “sustainability”?
Vincent Stanley: I think the most important thing is how to assign costs to externalities and key the environment and communities as values into the bottom line. That’s the critical question. I hate to hedge but both ideas have limitations and can also be very strong. These things have become part of the business culture and they weren’t 20 years ago.
Vincent Stanley will be speaking at this year’s 12th Annual Responsible Business Summit He will be part of a discussion based session looking at innovative approaches to the development of new sustainable products. For more information download the brochure or visit the conference website, it’s ace.