Patagonia has long been a sustainability leader, and pokes its competitors in the eye with programs, from asking consumers to buy less to working with fisheries to the preservation of salmon populations while rolling out new snacks. Now the outdoor clothing and gear company is pushing supply chain transparency to a new level.
Now Patagonia has released its Footprint Chronicles, one tool to help customers and stakeholders learn more about the the company’s global operations and suppliers. The interactive map allows visitors to click on locations of the company’s textile mills and factories all over the world.
Clicking on the map offers a quick snapshot of each cog in Patagonia’s extensive supply chain. Users learn how long the mill or factory has worked with Patagonia, the number of workers and gender ratio, languages spoken and what items are produced within the facility. The very curious who may just happen to be in the area can even glean the address of the factory in question. Over time more information will be available for perusal by visitors to the site.
Patagonia’s steps towards greater transparency pairs well with the company’s Reference Library, which not only educates customers about the various textiles the company sources, but anyone interested in more sustainable fashion can download information. An explanation on a bevy of alternatives from bamboo as a substitute for rayon to chlorine-free wool and hemp are on offer.
Life is going to be tougher and more uncomfortable for more clothing companies thanks to Patagonia’s increasing disclosure. Not long ago it was enough for a company to say they were “doing better” and were “exploring alternatives” to current business practices. Then came the demands for increased disclosures about its supply chain. Now lists of factories and percentages of successful ethical audits will be insufficient.
Patagonia will soon push the boundaries even more once the Footprint Chronicles’ pages are linked to the company’s online shopping site. Customers who want to make decisions based on environmental or social issues will have access to sustainability benchmarking data and the full traceability of Patagonia’s products.
The clothing industry is now becoming more exciting, and more responsible, for the right reasons. The days of competing just on pricing and branding are slowly becoming eclipsed by who can be more responsible and disclose even more, and that can only be a positive change, especially for factory workers’ human rights abroad.
Image credit: Ajay Suresh/Flickr
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.