Sunday, November 25, 2018

Patagonia vs. Trump: The Retailer Strikes Back (2017)

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Patagonia's Logo
Patagonia is an American clothing company based in Ventura California, specializing in outdoor gear and apparel. Founded by Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost in 1973, Patagonia was formerly known as Chouinard Equipment. In the 1970s Chouinard and Frost developed their first environmentally sound climbing gear and would continue to develop and support environmentally friendly products and organizations. This, along with high-end quality and design, catapulted Patagonia into one of the most well-known and respected outdoor apparel companies in the world. Then in 2017 they would be put to the test in how green of a company they were and how far they would go to support and fight for the country and planet they have been building to protect for over 50 years.

On December 4, 2017 President Donald Trump officially announced, through an executive order, that he would be shrinking the natural monuments of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, for commercial use, by 85% and 46% respectively. 
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Trump signing the executive order
The very next day on December 5, Patagonia announced their disapproval on their own website with a message from the company, “The President Stole Your Land”. The lands that were affected were some of the ones that Patagonia had played a part in the establishment of, putting $2 million towards efforts to protect Bears Ears. Supporting nonprofits from Utah in the process, like Friends of Cedar Mesa, putting their money where their mouth is. Revealing that they would be suing Trump for his “illegal” actions against the National Parks. The whole of these controversies and lawsuits are ongoing.

The success and the future of Patagonia relies heavily on their relationships with there stakeholders in the company and those who are being affected by their decision to sue the U.S government. Consumers of Patagonia’s products have to trust the people behind the brand and in turn the corporations and suppliers that supply Patagonia and keep the boat afloat financially have to as well. The general populous of the United States, and in this case workers and residents near or within the natural monuments are very much affected by Trump's and Patagonia's decisions. Lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum and activists are all effected as well. Patagonia's products may be environmentally sound, but one must think about the social repercussions of suing its parent government and what that means to support them. 
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Before & after:the national monuments effected. 
Through the eyes of Friedman’s individualism, Patagonia's actions would be deemed unethical. Under Friedman's individualism a company’s actions should be to maximize profits for the owners of the business and do so within the law. When Patagonia focuses their resources on “socially responsible” acts of fighting for national parks, Friedman would see this as an unethical waste of the company’s resources. Patagonia spending its money on resources, employees, and donations to causes is wrong by Friedman because it is essentially stealing from the owners of the company. The profits that are going against the government is not against the law, but it does go against Friedman’s view of ethically maximizing profits, showing why this form of individualism would see Patagonia’s actions as unethical. 
Under Machan’s individualism, things go down a bit differently. Maximizing profits within the law is still a belief for Machan's individualism, but other goals of a business besides profiting may actually help to boost their company's profits. Through Patagonia’s eyes we can see that by saving these national parks, this may generate profits for them in the future. With more parks out there for people and potential customers to enjoy, the more outdoor gear they will need to purchase in order to fulfill their desires to explore these natural monuments. All of which will generate more profits overall for Patagonia. You got to spend money to make money, showing that under Machan’s individualism, Patagonia’s actions are ethically correct. 
The goal of Utilitarian’s is to maximize the happiness of all the stakeholders involved and to also minimize the unhappiness of these said stakeholders. This being said, Patagonia’s decisions through the eyes of a utilitarian would be seen as ethical because of the happiness they are bringing to the majority of the stakeholders is greater than the unhappiness. Patagonia’s customers, wildlife in Utah, and conservationist groups all gain happiness from Patagonia's decision. Patagonia was out front with everyone when they began going against the choices of the government and told their customers that they would be donating at least 1% of their sales towards these efforts and conservationist groups. Their choices will potentially save the lives of the wildlife in Utah as well. The stakeholders who will be losing happiness are the Trump administration and the corporations that support them. They may be losing money and in return happiness for what they are going through, but their unhappiness is overthrown by the happiness that the other stakeholders are going to have. The happiness of conscious consumers, activist groups, and wildlife being saved, far outweighs the unhappiness gained by few due to losing profits.
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Bears Ears National Monument: San Juan County, Utah. 
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Illustration of the divide by Guy Shield.
Kantianism is for companies to always act in ways that respect and honor individuals and their choices; companies shouldn't lie, cheat, manipulate or harm others to get their way. Then according to Kantianism, Patagonia was acting ethically since they passed the Categorical Imperative test of the Formula of Humanity. Kantians would argue that Patagonia saw their customers as more than just a mere means of profit. They saw them as individuals who could make decisions on their own and fully disclosed everything. Releasing right away to all of their consumers that they were going against their government made sure there was no transparency between the company and its consumers. As for Patagonia donating percentages of their profits to organizations that support the national monuments, they fully disclosed this to their consumers, investors, and other stakeholders, showing that these initially investments made by them into the company were made with adequate information available to them. Allowing for them to make ethically, economically, and their own decisions in investing in a company that doesn’t see them as a means of profit. 
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Yvon Chouinard the founder of Patagonia, left, with its chief executive, Rose Marcario, right.
Virtue Theory:
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GQ's illustration of controversy.

Virtue Theory focuses mainly on four characteristics to follow and to 
act so as to embody these four virtuous or good character traits. 
The four virtues of Patagonia's character are courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. The courage aspect of virtue theory looks to represent the risk taking and willingness to take a stand for the right ideas and actions. Patagonia took a risk by going against the government of the country they reside in, although it was for the right ideas/actions. Then comes honesty, an agreement the company makes to be truthful with the public in hiring and treatment of employees, customers, and other companies. Patagonia was very public with their views and used their own website to promote them and were honest with what those views where to everyone.  Next is temperance, meaning that the company needs to have realistic expectations and desires. Patagonia’s expectations and desires were to stop the national parks from closing, funding nonprofits who supported this, and to generate profits from winning their lawsuit. They are risky expectations but are worth it for the benefit of the whole of the United States. Lastly, the virtue characteristic of justice stands for hard work, quality products, good ideas, and fair practices. The employees and executives at Patagonia used fair practices of a lawsuit to go against Mr. Trump and their process of advertisements, products, and donations to fund this lawsuit are all included in the characteristic of justice under virtue theory. Patagonia’s lawsuit against the Trump administration is seen as ethical based on the four characteristics of Virtue Theory.

These analyses of facts are based on a research paper by Michael Szczepanski, "Patagonia vs. Trump: The Retailer Strikes Back" 

Works Cited
Patagonia. “'The President Stole Your Land': Patagonia.” Protect Public Lands - Patagonia, 2017,
Kenna, Corley. “There Is Trump and There Is the Truth.” Patagonia , 5 Dec. 2017,
Gelles, David. “Patagonia v. Trump.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 5 May 2018,
Marcario, Rose. “Patagonia CEO Explains Why They're Suing Donald Trump.” Time, Time, 6 Dec. 2017,
Dawsey, Josh, and Juliet Eilperin. “Trump Shrinks Two Huge National Monuments in Utah, Drawing Praise and Protests.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 4 Dec. 2017,
Nordhaus, Hannah. “What Trump's Shrinking of National Monuments Actually Means.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 2 Feb. 2018,
Patagonia. “Patagonia's Mission Statement.” History of Patagonia - A Company Created by Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia Action Works,
Patagonia. “Beginnings and Blacksmithery.” History of Patagonia - A Company Created by Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia Action Works,
 Salazar, Heather. The Business Ethics Case Manual. n.d.

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