In a May 6 letter announcing the in-house venture fund, called $20 Million & Change, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard — a long-time advocate of corporate environmental stewardship — said the company intends to help “like-minded, responsible start-up companies bring about positive benefit to the environment.”
The fund’s name, Chouinard says, is a nod to the starting amount, $20 million, with the ability to grow and “change the way business is done.”
The company has not yet identified startups to invest in; a Patagonia spokesperson tells Environmental Leader that most funding will be in the $500,000 to $5 million range and will include equity investments and minority and majority partnerships, as well as joint ventures.
With the launch of this fund, the company has also reorganized Patagonia and its other businesses within a new holding company called Patagonia Works. Chouinard says Patagonia Works is dedicated to using business to help solve the environmental crisis.
Rose Marcario, who has been COO and CFO of Patagonia’s apparel company, will oversee the holding company as president and CEO of Patagonia Works. Marcario has been responsible for the launch of Patagonia Provisions, which will soon expand beyond Wild Salmon Jerky (wild-caught in natal waters by First Nations tribes) to other sustainably sourced foods.
Casey Sheahan will remain the CEO of Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company.
Last year, Patagonia became the first company in California to elect to be a benefit corporation. The legal status affords a company’s directors legal cover to consider environmental and social benefits over financial returns.
While businesses that apply for funding through $20 Million & Change are not required to be benefit corporations, they are required to share Patagonia’s core values, a company spokesperson says.