Outdoor clothing and equipment retailer Patagonia was an early adopter of the increasingly popular trend of putting a strong commitment to philanthropy at the core of a business model. Forty years after issuing its first grant, the company now funds hundreds of small-to-medium-sized projects that focus on environmental protection, committing at least 1 per cent of its sales to this purpose each year. In 2013, it awarded 773 grants worth a total of $5.6 million across 18 countries, at an average of about $7000 per grant (to a maximum of $12,000).
So who are the typical recipients?
Patagonia’s mission statement reveals that it supports "small grassroots activist organizations with provocative direct-action agendas." Its approach favors projects that are action-oriented and build public involvement, and typically precludes money going to things like education, land acquisition, research, political campaigns or conferences.
To illustrate the breadth of the projects still covered by these criteria, here are five recipients from the 2013 funding round:
CERES Community Environment Park, Brunswick East, Australia, which addresses the causes of climate change, promotes social wellbeing and builds local and global equity through its urban farm and community food system, educational programs, and green technology
Kokopelli, Ales Cedex, France, which works to save organic, fertile seeds through the production and distribution process, maintaining a collection of more than 2200 varieties
Kagaku-Bushitsu Mondai Shimin Kenkyu-kai, Tokyo, Japan, which empowers citizens to protect and improve public health by reducing and eliminating toxic chemical substances in the environment
Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy, Bronx, New York, which is involved in sustaining and enhancing Van Cortlandt Park as a vibrant destination for recreation, leisure and the enjoyment of natural landscapes
Cape Ann Farmer’s Market, Gloucester, Massachusetts, which supports local food growers, fishermen and environmental groups to provide Massachusetts residents with high-quality food at affordable prices
As part of its own grassroots approach, Patagonia is happy to receive grant proposals at its retail stores to be reviewed by store employees. An employee Grants Council located at company headquarters reviews proposals from those not located near a retail location. The company provides a useful grant eligibility quiz on its website for those still curious about what constitutes a Patagonia grant recipient.