Yvon Chouinard began his career in business by designing, manufacturing, and distributing rock climbing equipment in the late 1950’s. His tinkering led to an improved ice axe that facilitated the French ice climbing technique and is the basis for modern ice axe design.
In 1964, he produced his first mail order catalog—a one page mimeographed sheet—containing advice not to expect fast delivery during climbing season. Business grew slowly until 1972 when Chouinard added rugby shirts to his catalog, and his clothing business took off.
In the late 1980’s, Patagonia’s success was such that Chouinard considered early retirement. However, he decided to continue directing Patagonia’s course, using the company to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. As part of this goal, Patagonia instituted an Earth Tax, pledging 1 percent of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
In 2001, Chouinard, along with Craig Mathews, owner of West Yellowstone’s Blue Ribbon Flies, started One Percent For The Planet, an alliance of businesses that contribute at least 1 percent of their net annual sales to groups on a list of researched and approved environmental organizations.
Chouinard spends much of his time in the outdoors and serving on the boards of numerous environmental groups.
He is the author of Let My People Go Surfing (2006) and the co-author with Vincent Stanley of The Responsible Company (2012).
David R. Brower Conservation Award
Natural History Museum of Utah, 2012
Lifetime Achievement Award
Sustainable Business Council, 2012
The Coolest Company on the Planet
Fortune Magazine, 2011
Two Green Thumbs Award
Green Energy TV, 2009
Best Places to Work
Outside, 2009 and 2008
Eco Brand of the Year
Volvo Ecodesign Forum, 2008
Top 30 Places to Work for Executive Women
National Association for Female Executives, 2008