It turns out there is more than one way to be the odd one out. While smoking might make you the odd one out by subjecting everyone around you to selfish decision-making, there are others choosing to stand out by standing up for something else entirely.
While [name your irresponsible clothier here] continues business as usual, companies like Patagonia are standing up and showing that dangerous workplace conditions, lackluster pay, horrible animal practices and toxic chemicals are not the only way to do business in the world of consumer goods.
In 1996, Patagonia made the seemingly financially irresponsible and logistically impossible decision to use 100% organic cotton in every product that contained cotton. It was a huge commitment then, and it remains a huge commitment now. The easy decision would have been to say, “Well, we tried, and it was too hard,” and move on. Instead, they fought to support the farms using responsible farming practices and changing the game for one of the most toxic conventional crops on the planet.
In 2014, Patagaonia launched the 100% Traceable Down standard, open-sourcing a movement to support responsible practices in harvesting down feathers for use in consumer goods. What we as consumers don’t see are the commonly used force-feeding and live-plucking practices that go into our soft jackets and pillows. Rather than turn a blind eye, Patagonia chose to call themselves (and their industry) out and set a higher standard, inviting the rest of the industry to participate with them.
Following Patagonia’s lead, H&M, Eddie Bauer, The North Face and others joined in on the party to commit to some level of responsible down standards in 2014 as well.
These are just two of six key sustainability initiatives Patagonia is promoting in all of its’ marketing material this year. As they should. More important, Patagonia’s sustainability initiatives are built right into the brand and product, as opposed to being a side show that does nothing to change the reality of business operations. In other words, what if Coca-Cola committed themselves to zero artificial sweeteners and 100% organic ingredients while still supporting 5×20 and their other good works around the world?
While many companies continue to gather in dark corners, smoking away, others are becoming the odd ones out in a positive way. Let’s hope we can continue the tip the scale towards standing out for the right reasons.