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In August, outdoor apparel brand Patagonia released its first television advertisement. Rather than showcase a new line of outdoor clothing and gear, the minute-long spot features founder Yvon Chouinard outlining an ongoing threat to America’s public lands. This year, 27 federally held national monuments, including Cascade-siskiyou in Oregon and Bears Ears in Utah, underwent a review by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke—an act that could presage incursions by private companies or even sale. “We thought people didn’t really understand what was at stake,” Patagonia president and CEO Rose Marcario says. “We don’t usually advertise in traditional ways. We try to help educate people about environmental harm.”
The 44-year-old retailer has long been known for political activism, but since the election, its social consciousness has sharpened. Last November, it donated all of its $10 million in Black Friday sales to environmental nonprofits. Earlier this year, it boycotted the annual Outdoor Retailer trade show, traditionally held in Salt Lake City, to protest Utah governor Gary Herbert’s unwillingness to protect Bears Ears. The event, which brings in an estimated $45 million to its host city, will move to Denver in 2018.
Patagonia, whose sales hit $800 million in 2016 (double its 2010 revenue), has now set up a digital platform that makes it easy for people to call officials with their concerns. If the U.S. government proceeds with shrinking national monuments, Marcario has said the company won’t shy away from legal action. “Doing nothing is a kind of tacit sort of agreement with what’s going on,” she says. “People look to us and look at what we’re doing and they hopefully get inspired to do something as well.”
Patagonia is advocating for Bears Ears National Monument as the site faces scrutiny.