Patagonia was one of the first major retailers to take decisive action against the coronavirus pandemic, closing its 39 stores and e-commerce business in North America. Now the retailer that aggressively moved to close before any government shutdowns were announced is being very cautious in deciding how to open up again.

Patagonia prides itself on its status as a certified B Corporation status, which legally requires the company to consider the interests of “workers, the community and the environment” as well as shareholders in all of its undertakings. Since its establishment in 1973, the company has prided itself in building quality products that can last for generations, thus limiting their ecological impact.

They use their business to protect nature and are not bound by convention. The company values that underpin Patagonia are to seek to do less harm, and to pursue “more good” in every business undertaking. This was evident in the company’s response to COVID-19, when it shut down its stores before any government shutdowns were announced.

“We were one of the first to shut down, and we might be closer to the last to reopen fully — I don’t really care,” Rose Marcario, the C.E.O., said in an interview.
“We’re doing everything we can to ensure that our employees are taken care of in the best way possible, and we’ll make those decisions as we come to them.”

The retail industry has been significantly affected by the pandemic, and Patagonia is no exception. Its sales have dropped 50 percent in North America alone. Their biggest challenge at the moment is how to take care of their employees and community in a way that is true to their company values.

Sustainable, considered living, is no longer an optional lifestyle. Many of us could take a page out of the Patagonia handbook. Creating a better world will require much sacrifice, from all of us, including established business. But through small incremental steps towards change, we can face the challenges of our time while protecting our collective wellbeing.

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