“When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.”

Howard Schultz, former chairman and CEO, Starbucks

Rose Marcario is the CEO of outdoor apparel brand Patagonia, a company that has been in business for forty years and has enjoyed the most profitable ten years in their history over the past decade. Not only is business good – and getting better – for Patagonia, but their employee engagement levels are high, and turnover rates compared to similar companies are, according to one HR executive, “freakishly low.” What’s Patagonia’s secret to success? Marcario credits it to the company being firmly anchored in a higher purpose. In a recent interview, she stated it simply: “If you want to retain great people and have a great company, then you have to inspire the people to a greater, bigger purpose than themselves, and for us it’s saving the planet.”

Patagonia doesn’t frame their commitment to purpose as an addendum to their core reason for being; it is, in whole, the entire reason they are in business at all. Saving the planet isn’t extracurricular or a morale-boosting gambit; it’s why they do what they do. Their communications are carefully crafted to make this clear. Their website proclaims, “At Patagonia, the protection and preservation of the environment isn’t what we do after hours. It’s the reason we’re in business.”

It’s all nice to hear – so nice that some of the more cynical among us might meet their ...

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