Patagonia has launched a fund to invest in environmentally responsible startup companies. The fund, aptly dubbed “$20 Million & Change,” will start with $20 million to invest and can grow in the future as needed.
In a letter published on the company’s blog, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said $20 Million and Change will “help like-minded, responsible startup companies bring about positive benefit to the environment.”
Patagonia has not revealed the number of companies that will receive funding or when the first round of investments will be announced, but Patagonia spokesperson Jess Clayton says the company has “already had many companies and startups apply for funding.” Most investments will be between $500,000 and $5 million.
Clayton, tells TriplePundit that $20 Million & Change will fund apparel companies “that compliment Patagonia” as long as they are not “in direct competition.” Patagonia “will be looking to fund technologies and innovation that help make the apparel industry cleaner and more environmental.”
“Those technologies can and will be used by our competition,” says Clayton, “which is a good thing in our opinion.”
Patagonia is the apparel industry’s poster child for environmental responsibility. In 2001, Chouinard co-founded 1% for the Planet, an international business organization whose members donate one percent of their annual sales to environmental causes.
Patagonia also led the establishment of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an industry group of apparel and footwear companies, nonprofits, and NGOs working to reduce the industry’s environmental and social impacts around the world.
Still, even as Chouinard has urged customers to consume less to conserve Earth’s dwindling resources, Patagonia has enjoyed rapid growth since its creation in 1973. Patagonia’s revenues have doubled over the past five years, and the rate at which the company consumes cotton, dye, polyester, wool, and the controversial goose down is mounting.
“Regarding the company’s use of resources, this is a situation we grapple with on a daily basis,” says Clayton. “We have never denied the substantial use of resources needed to run the business.”
Along those lines, in 2007 Patagonia launched the Footprint Chronicles, an online project that lets users track the environmental footprint of Patagonia products as they travel along the company’s supply chain. The project has been praised for its transparency and attention to detail.
With the launch of the $20 Million & Change fund, Patagonia has formed a new holding company that is “dedicated to… using business to help solve the environmental crisis,” according to Chouinard. The holding company, called Patagonia works, currently houses the clothing company, Patagonia, Inc., as well as Patagonia Media and Patagonia Provisions.
“Others might see Patagonia Works and $20 Million & Change as revolutionary business ventures; we think both are just next logical steps to doing business more responsibly,” wrote Chouinard. “Economic growth for the past two centuries has been tied to an ever-spiraling carbon bonfire. Business – and human – success in the next 100 years will have to come from working with nature rather than using it up.”
“We invite and encourage all companies to start to work with us in that direction,” he added.
To apply for funding or seek information regarding the $20 Million & Change program, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (805) 667-2300.