When values drive business… Your Public Value continues its series of interviews on best practices and business strategies in the post-COVID19 world. Meet our guest, Corley KennaDirector for Global Communications & Public Relations at Patagonia.  Karin Helmstaedt leads this interview. Karin is a Canadian-born journalist, moderator and TV host based in Berlin. She currently anchors the Arts & Culture news program for Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and also facilitates conferences, events, and webinars around Europe. Karin Helmstaedt is a founding member of Your Public Value and a member of their Editorial Committee. She met Corley Kenna first at the fully digitised Global Communication Summit 2020 in Berlin and wrote a blog for Your Public Value.

Patagonia is a leading outdoor apparel company that’s had environmental activism as part of its DNA since its inception in 1973. Founded by Californian rock-climber Yvon Chouinard, it was his vision that made the firm a trailblazer in terms of environmental awareness & protection. Today Patagonia remains a privately held firm that can call its own shots – and it doesn’t shy away from getting political if there’s a chance it can make a difference.

Business as usual is not good enough anymore. Companies must do more than make a product or provide a service.

Business as usual is not good enough anymore. Companies must do more than make a product or provide a service. Therefore, they have to think about their public value: What do they bring to their community?,” Kenna says. Today, customers keep companies responsible to think beyond profit, to think how they can benefit people and the planet. 

Patagonia’s mission statement [We’re in business to save our home planet] and corporate values goes far beyond profit, stating that they “Use business to protect nature”: “Our values reflect those of a business started by a band of climbers and surfers, and the minimalist style they promoted,” the website states. “This mission statement is more important than ever before. With the current crises we realise how fragile the world is. Leaving up to our mission statement in a sharper way is more important than ever before“, Kenna said.

Environmental and societal objectives

While it’s easy to be sceptical of an apparel company that wants to save the world and yet just keeps on growing, Kenna explained that Patagonia has made the commitment to become Co2-neutral by 2025: “We remain fully committed to our carbon goals and we are working through them as the pandemic has had an impact on those goals“, Kenna said.

As a global community we can’t address the COVID-19 crisis without the private sector, and it’s important that companies recognise that. Companies can be an important part of the solution. They need to look at all their policies, including recruitment, if they want to move forward “, Kenna explained.

Companies can be an important part of the solution. They need, they must be part of the solution.

And as the first company in California to sign up for B Corp certification back in 2012, its longstanding commitment to workers, the community and the environment has credence.

Staying consistent with values and quality over decades have been determining factors for the company’s success, especially after covid hit, customers have noticed the brands and businesses putting people and planet first. “I think it is a false choice to say that you can either make money or do good. You can do the right thing, and it benefits business,” Kenna said. She added: “We don’t necessarily do the right thing TO benefit business, but it does often work out that way“.

For decision-makers and CEOS, the key step is to shift the focus of their company and look at the long-term. “What are the values that drive your company?“, Kenna concluded. “COVID-19 is a reminder of how fragile are our systems, but also of how resilient companies are when purpose and values drive them“. For example, mask-wearing has become political in the United States, But Kenna adds: “It’s been great to see CEOs state that wearing masks is a safety, not a political statement“. Values, she says, should continue to drive companies.

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