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Over the last few years, brands have increasingly stepped up and spoken out on social and environmental issues from gender equality and LGBTQ rights, to climate change and sustainability. One of the most influential and outspoken companies in this regard is Patagonia, and today the brand took its activism to a new level by announcing its endorsement of specific U.S. Senate candidates in the upcoming midterm elections.
Reflecting its commitment to the protection of public lands and waters, the company is endorsing Democratic candidate Jacky Rosen in Nevada and incumbent Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). While its headquarters is in Ventura, California, Patagonia’s global distribution center, with more than 650 employees, is in Nevada, and over the past 20 years, the brand has worked with grassroots environmental nonprofits and the state’s leaders on some of the conservation efforts, including the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area, Gold Butte National Monument, Basin and Range National Monument, and more. In Montana, the company started its conservation efforts in the late 1980s by giving grants to support the Montana Wilderness Association.
[Image: courtesy of Patagonia]In a statement, Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said, “Jacky has a strong record of defending public lands in Congress and protecting our access to clean air and clean waters. We need her leadership to protect Nevada’s economy and the basic health of its people, so the business community can thrive and so Nevadans can prosper.”
Company founder Yvon Chouinard said in a statement that threats to clean air, clean water, and public land are worse than we’ve ever seen, and they’re supporting Jon Tester–the only organic farmer in the Senate–because he gives a damn about protecting public lands and is committed to fight back against anyone who doesn’t. “He goes to work every day for the 95% of Montanans who believe recreation on public lands is a priority, unlike Republicans in Congress who only serve the fossil fuel industry.”
This move is yet another way Patagonia is pushing the envelope for how brands speak out and stand behind social and political issues. Traditionally, companies do this behind closed doors through lobbying or CEO donations to specific candidates, far, far, faaaar from the eyes of the general public. Even post-Citizens United, which deregulated political spending by organizations of all stripes, companies have largely kept their support out of the broader public eye. Here, in what appears to be a first, Patagonia is making it part of its brand marketing, posting its endorsements on its website, across its social channels, and in customer emails.
It’s consistent with the brand’s high-profile activism around public lands, which has been put into hyperdrive since the election of President Donald Trump and his appointment of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. In March, the company called the president out publicly, declaring he lied about his intentions when the government reduced Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by nearly 2 million acres in December 2017. And in June, Marcario announced the company would be giving employees a paid day off to vote in the midterms and encouraged other companies to do the same. Now, brands like Kaiser Permanente, Levi Strauss & Co., PayPal, Tyson Foods, and Walmart have joined Patagonia in a nonpartisan Time to Vote coalition of companies that will give employees time off to vote.
Companies taking a stand on specific issues is still a polarizing debate, but there’s no arguing that more people want to buy from brands that align with their values and beliefs. The brands that have voiced their support have found increased customer loyalty. This latest move by Patagonia represents a new leap in that dynamic, not only telling the world what its goals are, but also promoting and providing people with the tools–and in this case, the candidates–to achieve them.