Patagonia Frontrunning the CSR Game

Patagonia cares about the world. This seems like a big and broad statement to make about a company but Patagonia puts their money where their mouth is and they’re not shy or quiet about it. I want to talk about how Patagonia is doing CSR right.


When I was in high school, everyone was wearing Toms, those shoes that pledged that for every pair you bought, they’d donate a pair to a developing country. I think that was good enough for people to hop onto the bandwagon as it was a thing that they could feel good about. Since the shoes were basically flats and whereas the quality of the shoe wasn’t bad, it’s clear, just by looking at them, the shoes weren’t meant to last. But you feel good about buying another pair because they’ll give a pair to a developing country! And the cycle continues ad infintum.


I had this teacher in high school who made a comment about the shoes that stuck with me. He said something along the lines of, ‘How do we know they even want the shoes? What if there’s a shoemaker in that town that can no longer work?’ This feels very Teach-A-Man-To-Fish but it got me thinking. Did they even want these shoes that wouldn’t last? How much research did they do on the terrain and whether these shoes would even be suitable? Did the people even want the shoes? How much overall waste would this be creating? I remember hearing about how thrift stores would just send unwanted clothing/electronics to Africa and no one there needed them and it was just a redistribution of waste in the end.


So what does Patagonia do differently? They literally tell people not to buy their products. And that increases their sales. This backwards logic is defended with the idea that people should only buy what they need to prevent potential waste. Along with this, they’ll buy back and resell your clothes after they repair it. they make sure their factories are living up to human rights standards. They’re very vocal about their actions. And my personal favorite, they’ll go so far as to sue the president for destroying national monuments.


The best part about this, for me, is that they have a CEO that actually cares about these things, instead of a mandated appointed committee that does the bare minimum to qualify for a CSR nod. So, Patagonia is doing what they can and the world is better for it.







Microsoft and Low Income Housing in Seattle

Earlier this year, Microsoft pledged $500 million dollars towards housing in Seattle. The primary focus of this is to provide middle and low income housing for workers in the area because, as we know, where tech companies congregate, housing becomes less accessible. Our prime example is San Francisco, where, according to an Uber driver I had while I was in the city last year, someone searched months for a place to live, only to end up renting a tent in someone’s backyard for $900 a month.

What Microsoft is doing here is Corporate Social Responsibility. The concept is relatively new and not thoroughly defined but we can say that at its bare minimum, it’s the actions a corporation takes to improve the surrounding areas of the space it occupies. It is in the best interest for a corporation to step in and provide funding for causes when a city or the state may not be able to, especially since they’re not being taxed in a way that would help offset the effect of their presence.

That statement is a double edged sword. In, ‘Microsoft Cannot Fix Seattle’s Housing Crisis,’ Tammy Kim explains how the city of Seattle tried to propose a head tax for corporations above a certain threshold operating in the city, but when one of the biggest tech companies, Amazon, threatened to leave, city council pulled the mandate. We heard about this in lecture, who the very nature of an MNC is that it can leave whenever it likes, even though it would prefer not to, but we see in the Amazon-Seattle situation, that the MNC had the upper hand.

Even if a state instated mandatory CSR, like India, the corporations contributions would have to be voluntary and self-reported, so a corporation can very well get away with doing nothing if they so choose, but as mentioned, it’s in their best interest to help where they can. This pledge of $500 million dollars is a good start, but unless it’s put in the right direction, who’s to say it won’t be wasted. Kim states that the money that Microsoft is pledging will end up in the hands of developers that will cater to richer renters or buyers, worsening the problem. She also brings up the concern that $500 million might not even get you as much as one would think it does.

Kim, E. Tammy. “Microsoft Cannot Fix Seattle’s Housing Crisis.” The New York Times. January 19, 2019. Accessed April 01, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/18/opinion/microsoft-seattle-housing.html.