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Strategy and Strategic Management

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Wisdom Learning From Others

> PASSION AND VALUES MAKE FOR STRATEGIC SUCCESS

Patagonia is known for top-quality and high-priced outdoor clothing and gear. The firm is also driven by a commitment to sustainability and the natural environment. Its mission is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

You are as likely to find Patagonia's founder Yvon Chouinard climbing a mountain in Yosemite or the Himalayas as working in the office. But his values are ever present. “Most people want to do good things but don't,” he says. “At Patagonia it's an essential part of your life.” Chouinard has been called “nonconformist,” “eco-conscious,” and “employee friendly.” And it all shows up in his company. Patagonia's “Reason for Being” states in part: “For us at Patagonia, a love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them…. We know that our business activity—from lighting stores to dyeing shirts—creates pollution as a by-product. So we work steadily to reduce those.”

What's the business payoff? Patagonia's earnings are consistently above the industry average. Its workforce is loyal and inspired. And Chouinard says, “I have an M.B.A. theory of management. Management by Absence. I take off for weeks at a time and never call in. We hire the ...

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