Updated: Jan 21
Today, most people are familiar with Patagonia, a clothing and outdoor gear company that has a strong commitment to sustainability. Back in 2011, the company made the decision to switch to organic cotton in all of its products, a significant change that required the company to overhaul its supply chain and production processes.
To help manage this change, Patagonia engaged in extensive communication and transparency with its employees, suppliers, and customers. The company clearly communicated the reasons for the switch to organic cotton, including the fact that organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers which can have negative impacts on soil health and water quality. In addition, organic cotton production supports small-scale farmers and promotes fair labor practices.
It was a change just about everyone was onboard with, but the switch to organic cotton was not without challenges. Although it's a more sustainable material, organic cotton is more expensive and harder to come by than conventional cotton, which required Patagonia to make significant investments in its supply chain. However, the company believed that the long-term benefits to the environment and its mission were worth the investment. In fact, a life cycle assessment conducted by Patagonia found that the switch to organic cotton resulted in a 36% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 94% reduction in the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers compared to conventional cotton.
Turns out, the change to organic cotton also had a positive impact on Patagonia's bottom line. According to the company, customers were willing to pay a premium for its organic cotton products, which contributed to increased sales and profitability. In addition, Patagonia's commitment to sustainability has helped the company build a loyal customer base and improve its reputation as a responsible and values-driven company.
Patagonia's successful switch to organic cotton demonstrates the impact that effective change management can have on the mission and bottom line of environmental companies. By clearly communicating the reasons for the change, engaging stakeholders, and addressing challenges, the example of Patagonia shows that companies can successfully implement changes that align with their values and improve their performance.
Matthew Baker is a Change Management and Learning & Development professional with over a decade of experience delivering user-centered graphic, audio, and instructional design, as well as project management. He holds degrees in Instructional Design, Applied Physics, and Organizational Management.