Spotlighting Patagonia’s Employee Activism Program

In our previous post we talked about the rise of employee volunteer and philanthropy programs, happening in large part because of the demands of Millennials.


Patagonia is one company paving the way in terms of promoting employee volunteer work and the idea of giving back as part of a talent management strategy.

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The Mission

Patagonia is a company deeply involved in the idea of giving back, particularly as it pertains to the environment. Social responsibility is at the core of their mission, which then translates to the inclusion of volunteering and philanthropy within their talent management objectives.

Patagonia says the following about their grassroots-based efforts:

As a company that uses resources and produces waste, we recognize our impact on the environment and feel a responsibility to give back. For us, it’s not charity or traditional philanthropy: it’s part of the cost of doing business.

We give at the grassroots level to innovative groups mobilizing their communities to take action. We fund activists who take radical and strategic steps to protect habitat, oceans and waterways, wilderness and biodiversity. This is our niche: supporting people working on the frontlines of the environmental crisis.

Employee Activism and Environmentally-Based Programs

Patagonia sells outdoor equipment and clothing so it makes sense their employee activism program is centered around the environment. It’s really a great example of some of the ideas we discussed in our previous post – namely, aligning your employee volunteering program with the strategic principles and objectives of your company.

Patagonia places a big emphasis on volunteer work, with the company reporting their employees having donated more than 1700 hours of their time to various environmental groups in the past year.

The company’s efforts are really about putting muscle behind the money. They realized that while giving money to causes is great, they wanted to also focus on grassroots efforts that have employees getting into the trenches as part of their philanthropy. For example, employees may participate in anything from planting trees to cleaning up shorelines.

Volunteer opportunities take place across the country and the globe – employees have done everything from building trails in Reno to cleaning up the Los Padres National Forest. Some members of the Patagonia team even helped rehabilitate sick and injured seals on the Channel Islands.

As for the retail employees that make up the Patagonia workforce, they’re involved as well. These employees often dedicate their time to projects in their home city through partnerships with locally-based non-profits.

Miracle Grants Program

Also part of the philanthropic component of working at Patagonia is something called the Miracle Grants Program.

Employees based in Patagonia’s Ventura office are asked to nominate an environmental group that they feel is doing amazing work and then each department goes over the nominations and votes. In the past year $50,000 in grants was given out, spread amongst 11 different environmental groups.

As part of this program employees were also given the opportunity to spend eight hours of work time volunteering for the group they selected.

The Martin Luther King Holiday

Patagonia doesn’t offer MLK day as a paid holiday, but instead they encourage employees to spend half the day volunteering in a variety of ways. It’s an opportunity for employees to come together and work toward a common cause on a day that’s often viewed as significant for the ideas of community and togetherness it evokes.

What do you think about Patagonia’s robust approach to philanthropy in the workplace?

December 31, 2014   Updated :March 17, 2015   Miracle Grants Program, patagonia   

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