Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard has always had, in his words, a “skeptical view” of the business world. For over 40 years, the outdoor apparel company has marched to the beat of its own drum, from donating one percent of its sales to environmental organizations to helping found the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to supply chain transparency. The company has also urged its consumers to hold onto their Patagonia garments and reduce consumption. Now Patagonia is taking its message a step further with the recent announcement the company will boost investment in Yerdle, a startup where users can use a smartphone app to give and receive things for free and score credits to get even more free items in the meantime.
According to Fast Company, which hosted the Innovation Uncensored Conference where the new investment was disclosed, Patagonia will manage this investment through its $20 Million and Change internal venture fund. Yerdle is the perfect partner for Patagonia as both have a role of keeping products moving between users, therefore keeping them out of landfills. As noted by Yerdle on its Facebook page, “either love what you own, or pass it along to someone who will.”
Yerdle and Patagonia ramped up their cooperation over the past year. The two companies partnered on a “Worn Wear” campaign, which featured a mini-documentary urging consumers to repair their garments during the holiday Christmas season. According to a GreenBiz article this spring, Patagonia’s presence on the app becomes a gift that keeps on giving—the more often Yerdle users see a Patagonia garment on the app, the more inclined they are to contribute their own unwanted items. At press time however, things seemed slow, or maybe Patagonia items just get claimed quickly: a search on the Yerdle app revealed only one item. Hopefully the Black Friday angst will motivate people to clean out their closets ASAP—and help Yerdle achieve its ambitious goal of reducing the things we buy by 25 percent. Should this collaborative consumption trend become more mainstream, that may not be a totally unrealistic goal.
In any event, this latest project is just another example of how Patagonia has moved from just another outdoor gear manufacturer to a B Corp giant focused on social innovation and environmental stewardship. As part of the Patagonia Works initiative, the venture fund seeks young socially and environmentally responsible companies that share its values. Companies with an established business model can pitch for an investment from Patagonia ranging from $500,000 to $5 million.
The sharing economy is enduring growing pains as it evolves and matures, as seen in Airbnb’s legal battles and Uber’s shenanigans in the ridesharing industry. But as more consumers realize the accumulation of space and stuff is not only a drag on their pocketbooks, but a gash on the planet, watch for more partnerships like the Patagonia-Yerdle alliance to give us even more options to save money and clear our closets.
Image credit: Patagonia