May 25, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Patagonia eco-brand unscathed by polarized climate

Illustration of the earth wearing a hat, ski goggles, and a neck scarf

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Outdoor retailer Patagonia, which is steering profits into fighting climate change, has the top ranking in the 2023 Axios Harris Poll 100 brand reputation survey.

Why it matters: The outdoor apparel company appears to have successfully avoided polarizing battles that have ensnared other big brands, and alienated some consumers.

Driving the news: Patagonia regained the number one slot it held in 2021, after last year staying near the top at number three.

  • Its "Reputational Quotient" is 83.5 in a survey that tests nine categories like trust, trajectory, products and services, and vision.

Catch up fast: For decades, the company has supported environmental groups and causes with money, visibility and more. But it took a big new step in 2022.

  • Patagonia created a legal structure to ensure all profits that aren't reinvested in the company will go toward "fighting the climate crisis."
  • It projects an annual dividend of roughly $100 million for the newly created "Holdfast Collective" running the efforts.

The intrigue: While years of surveys from multiple pollsters show Democrats prioritizing climate far more than Republicans, the Patagonia brand has support across the aisle.

  • Similar shares of Harris survey respondents from each party view the company as having excellent leadership.
  • And overall, it's the third-highest performing company among both Democrats and Republicans.
  • Patagonia is also strong among urban (#1) and suburban (#2) respondents, while it's ninth out of 100 among rural respondents.

What we don't know: Patagonia scored very highly, even before last year's pledge that Earth would be its "only shareholder" in perpetuity.

  • So it's hard to parse whether that propelled them back to #1 on the strength of modestly higher scores in areas including "trajectory" and "products and services."

Yes, but: The percent of Harris respondents who say Patagonia shares their values rose 8.8%.

  • The data also found that 77% of Americans say they would they respect companies more if they were clear about their values — even if they disagree.

The bottom line: Patagonia is open about trying to put the world on its shoulders, but unlike other big brands, it's not dragging the company down.

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