Patagonia announced a new sustainability initiative today, added to a roster of other initiatives they’ve been putting in place in recent years. The brand has long strived to be eco-forward and conscious, with comprehensive environmental programs backing all their materials, and efforts to ensure their products are made under ethical conditions.
Their newly announced sustainability step ties directly into our work at coolperx, so we’re here to provide our thoughts on what this adjustment means, and where it may have unintended pitfalls.
Patagonia announced that going forward, they will no longer offer options for adding additional company co-branding to their clothing and gear. Meaning: companies looking to buy Patagonia items to gift employees or customers will no longer be able to add their own logo or name to the items they order. With a recognizable and popular brand like theirs, this is a big step. They attribute the decision to something we also prioritize at coolperx: the longevity and lifespan of the products. Their announcement notes that they’ve discovered that items with added logos are shown to have significantly decreased lifespans, as their use often becomes limited to a person’s time at that company or is used exclusively for business hours and not daily life.
This is something we address regularly, and it’s an accurate conclusion. Adding branding and logos does generally decrease the usability and lifespan of any item, as people find it less covetable, practical, or aligned with their daily life, rather than just their time with the company that gave them the item.
They also noted the important fact that gear being used for an additional nine months, or better, a couple years, cuts down massively on that item’s water, waste, and CO2 footprint. So we’re fully in agreement and support of this effort to increase the lifespan of their products, and for those that are still purchased and gifted, they likely will see the desired outcome of longer-lasting products.
However, there is also a potential unintended consequence to this change. For some companies who may usually opt to purchase Patagonia products for their employees or customers, without the option of adding signature branding, Patagonia items may seem obsolete (for those who prioritize having their company represented on gifted items) and interchangeable with other similar-looking products with much worse ethics and environmental choices behind them. So, rather than opt for the higher-quality and thus higher-priced Patagonia products, and not be able to promote their logo on the gear, these buyers may start buying elsewhere, reverting to purchases that are worse for the planet, worse for the laborers, and worse for the recipient, thus being disposed of more quickly than a branded Patagonia item might.
Of course, this is an issue we’ve considered before. Our favorite solution is simple: collectable, removable logo lapel pins. Tiny pins featuring the brand’s logo can be attached to the item in question, whether a shirt, jacket, hat, or bag, so that they feature the company and brand when desired (most often at work functions), but then can be removed as the wearer chooses, when they’d prefer to wear the item for daily life, without branding. Better yet, these pins can be customized to be more collectible, adding specialty versions of the logo, specific team branding, or other insignias to represent the recipient and their work.
For those who prefer other alternatives to logos, we’ve also suggested options like:
Ultimately, though, we love the initiative Patagonia continues to take toward increased sustainable business practices, and support any company in their efforts to make products more covetable and longer-lasting.