– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form

Let My People Go Surfing

“…to change the government, you have to aim at changing corporations, and if you want to change the corporations, you first have to change the consumers.”

Yvon Chouinard from Let My People Go Surfing

Let My People Go Surfing reads more like a business manual for sustainable business than anything else. Chouinard discusses the history of Patagonia; its commitment to the environment and social responsibility, and the future of both Patagonia and capitalism.

let my people go surfing - Yvon ChouinardLet My People Go Surfing is a flex-time policy created at Patagonia to allow surfers to leave work when there is a swell, as long as they make up their hours and maintain a high level of performance. The flex-time policy is but one example of the ways Patagonia has worked to change corporate culture to create a company whose values revolve less around maximizing profit and more around being responsible to the earth and society.

The book covers Patagonia’s history from Yvon’s first blacksmithing gigs to the present garment and specialty gear focus. Then Yvon details the company philosophies, covering financial, HR, environmental, and design commitments, to name a few. Finally, he talks about the 1% for the Planet initiative. The book is filled with anecdotes and photos as well.

The book is a great introduction to the idea of sustainable business models. Patagonia has not only started many trends in shifting corporate culture to more sustainable methods, but has also supported grass roots environmental activists with over twenty million dollars in cash and in-kind donations.

The surf industry would do well by adopting some of Chouinard’s principles, primarily his commitment to product quality and durability.

• Category: environment

2 Responses »

  1. This book is a great read. I highly recommend it as well. It’s funny, the quote you cite (it’s a great quote btw) by Yvon Chouinard:

    “…to change the government, you have to aim at changing corporations, and if you want to change the corporations, you first have to change the consumers.”

    isn’t neccessarily Patagonia’s route. As I understand it, they stepped up and changed gear that was descructive to the faces they climbed BEFORE there was consumer pressure to do so.

    Consumers supported them BECAUSE of their love of the environment.

    Still, some surf co’s are putting out green lines, testing the market. I’m betting most of them will only push it further if consumers support these lines.

  2. Yeah, true.

    In the case of their pitons:

    “Pitons were the mainstay of our business, but we were destroying the very rocks we loved” (pg 31)

    “Fortunately, there was an alternative to pitons: aluminum chocks that could be wedged by ahnd rather than hammered in and out of cracks.”

    “We designed our own versions… and sold them in small quantities until the apperance of the first Chouinard Equiment catalog in 1972”

    It then goes on to talk about the 14 page essay on clean climbing in that first catalog and the benefits of using these new style chocks vs. hammering pitons in the rock.

    “Within a few months of the catalog’s mailing, the piton business had atrophied; chocks sold faster than they could be made.” (pg 33)

    The point being, in relation to that quote, that they had come up with a better, less destructive method, but the consumer didn’t even know it was out there or an option. They first had to educate the consumer to even create a demand for the product.

    It all goes back to educating the consumer and bringing to light new/alternative methods and construction, whether it’s climbing accessories or surfboards. It allows the consumer to make better and more informed decisions.