Blog #8 Kirstie Hibbard. In assessing Yvon Chouinard’s discourse “The responsible economy”, one can appreciate the economic value in engaging in ethical production practices. Chouinard addresses the motives that drive cheap and unethical production. As he puts it,” there are too many of us consuming too much stuff, and we demand that it be as cheap and disposable as possible”. If companies are producing based on these principles, they must disregard social ethics, and externalize the cost of their production. When a sweatshirt is priced at $9.99 at our local superstore, before rejoicing over the “deal” we are finding, we need to think about the aspects of production involved in producing that product. When we do this, we will realize that we are not even close to paying the full price of the product. If we are not paying the whole price of the product then who is? This is a question that many companies, and consumers prefer to avoid. The reason we avoid this question is that the answer calls to question our morals. For us to consume products at such low prices, the laborers who are producing these products are being paid little to nothing and are surviving in less than suitable working conditions. If consumers could see the production conditions of the products they consumed, they would be swayed to pay more money and support ethical production methods. Patagonia is committed to fair treatment of people and resources alike. For this reason their production costs are displayed in their prices.
Patagonia has made a long-term commitment to avoiding externalized costs, and any possible harm to the people and resources involved in their production. While initially they have had to spend more money to produce their higher quality products, recent results indicate that these investments have been profitable. An article written in 2010 (at the peak of the economic recession) it I was highlighted that while the majority of the world struggled with the Great Recession, Patagonia experienced one of its best economic periods on record. Chouinard explains that the world experiences recession because consumers are not shopping smart. Instead of looking to trends, consumers need to look for products that will last. This brings us back to Patagonia’s most basic morals for production and product quality. Patagonia founders are committed to selling only the best of their designs; their final products are durable, sustainable, and can be enjoyed and utilized by consumers for longer periods of time.
While Patagonia’s commitment as a company to long-term investments has paid off, so will be the case with consumers who buy their products. Point Loma’s Sustainability department decided a few years back to invest in Patagonia half zips. Maggie Jacobs, former member of the Sustainability team, explained to me just how cost effective her jacket has been. Jacobs asserts “I have bought several jackets over the last few years, or my sisters have given them to me, but my Patagonia has outlasted all of them, and is still my go to jacket on a cold morning”. Jacob’s comment displays the value in purchasing long lasting products, and confirms Sustainability’s decision to buy ethically.