Yvon Chouinard, billionaire founder of outdoor apparel firm Patagonia, has traditionally shied away from politics. But things have changed for the rock-climbing, fly-fishing outdoorsman since Donald Trump moved into the Oval Office.
On Wednesday, Patagonia announced it has an additional $10 million in profits on its books for 2018 as a result of Trump’s “irresponsible tax cut” last year, which lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.
Instead of investing the additional dollars back into its business, Patagonia said it would give $10 million to grassroot groups fighting climate change, including organizations that work in regenerative organic agriculture to help reverse global warming.
“Our government continues to ignore the seriousness and causes of the climate crisis,” Chouniard said in a statement. “It’s pure evil.”
Chouinard laid out his prescription for the U.S: “We need an agriculture system that supports small family farms and ranches, not one that rewards chemical companies intent on destroying our planet and poisoning our food. And we need to protect our public lands and waters because they are all we have left.”
Patagonia, citing news reports, claims the oil and gas industry have been the biggest benefactors of the corporate tax cut, with billions added to its bottom line.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released its fourth National Climate Assessment on November 23, which pointed to the already “frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events” as harbingers of an even more tumultuous future.
“The timing of this tax cut couldn’t have been worse,” Patagonia’s statement asserts.
This bold stance comes one year after Chouinard first declared his opposition to Trump’s decision to reduce the size of Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, two Utah land areas that became federally protected under the Obama and Clinton administrations, respectively.
In response, Chouinard blacked out Patagonia’s homepage online and replaced it with a simple message: “The President Stole Your Land.”
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The billionaire founder—Forbes estimates his net worth at $1.5 billion—then went on CNN to announce his plans to take Trump to court.
“I’m going to sue him,” he said at the time. “It seems the only thing this administration understands is lawsuits.” The Trump administration tried to get the case moved to Utah courts, but a judge ruled in September that the case will have to be heard in a federal court in the nation’s capital. The case is still ongoing.
Taking a vocal and public stand against Trump’s policies has not hurt Patagonia’s business. In fact, it’s likely that it has only helped. “Any time that we do something good for the environment, we make more money,” Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario told students at UC Berkeley in April 2017.
But the company mission for environmental conservation and fighting climate change has been around long before Trump. Patagonia has been funding environmental nonprofits since 1985, giving a total of $100 million to such causes. Chouinard also in 2002 cofounded 1% for the Planet, a pledge for businesses to donate 1% of sales to sustainability-oriented nonprofits. To date, the pledge has brought $175 million to environmental and conservation efforts.
Chouinard, now 80 years old, is no longer a part of day-to-day operations for Patagonia, but he shows no signs of slowing down in the great outdoors. Asked on his whereabouts over the past summer, a representative told Forbes, “He is off the grid, taking a well-deserved fishing break.”
-Angel Au-Yeung; Forbes Staff