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Meet Yvon Chouinard, the “Existential Dirtbag” Who Gave Patagonia Back to the Planet

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“Earth is now our only shareholder,” he says.

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The publication of a magazine article in 2017 “really, really pissed off” Yvon Chouinard, the mountain climber turned reluctant businessman and founder of outdoor clothing company Patagonia.

In the article, Forbes crowned Chouinard as a billionaire and added him to its list of the world’s richest people. While many people daydream of achieving a nine-zero fortune, for Chouinard it was a sign he had failed in his life’s mission to make the world a better and fairer place.

The Forbes article set him on a journey to find a way of giving away Patagonia, the company he founded almost 50 years ago with a mission to help fellow climbers. This week he achieved that aim, announcing that he was giving away all of the shares in Patagonia to a trust that will use future profits to “help fight” the climate crisis.

“Earth is now our only shareholder,” Chouinard, 83, said in a message to staff and customers. “Instead of ‘going public’, you could say we’re ‘going purpose’. Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.”

Explaining his decision to give away the company, Chouinard told the New York Times: “I was in Forbes magazine listed as a billionaire, which really, really pissed me offI don’t have $1 billion in the bank. I don’t drive Lexuses.”

Chouinard, who drives a beaten-up Subaru with a surfboard strapped to the roof, says he hopes giving away the company “will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people”.

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