Babson Students Reflect on Patagonia’s Environmental Trailblazing

This is the second article in a two-part series as the Babson community reflects on Yvon Chouinard and his family’s decision to exit their Patagonia company.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s bold decision to donate his roughly $3 billion retail company to the fight against climate change made waves among billionaires and corporations around the world — and Babson students wanted theirs too comment on the historic donation.

Chouinard, along with his wife and two adult children, announced in September that they would transfer ownership of the outdoor adventure retail store to a specially designed trust and non-profit organization that would use profits to protect the environment and undeveloped lands.

The move comes as Babson College students and their courses have increased the focus on sustainability and the environmental and social impact of the business. As part of his new core curriculum, Babson now requires every sophomore to take a course, Socio-Ecological Systems, that focuses on integrated sustainability. The flagship Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship (FME) course, in which first-year students start, start and operate a business, also focuses on improving the world and creating social and economic value.

We asked Babson students to reflect on Chouinard’s decision and share their thoughts on the role of business in relation to the environment.

Martha Buckley MBA’23

“I believe Yvon Chouinard’s decision to abandon Patagonia to fight climate change is morally brave. It’s bold and it’s inspirational. Quite frankly, his decision is precisely why a social impact enthusiast and perennial optimist like myself believes in the power of mobilizing capital and innovation, used in the private sector to address some of our most pressing environmental and social problems .

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“I don’t think the business leaders of the future can afford the luxury of not considering the planetary and social impact of doing business. The material risks that continue to mount for businesses amid a growing climate crisis are not potential impacts – they will affect us all, and business as usual is unsustainable in our generation. The courage and example set by Yvon Chouinard gives us permission – gives us a roadmap – to seize the opportunity to create and run businesses that can simultaneously create significant social/environmental and economic value.

“I don’t think the business leaders of the future can afford the luxury of not considering the planetary and social impacts of business.”
Martha Buckley MBA’23

“We can’t wait to be led to change; we must be bold enough to drive change. As managers, we must not be afraid to question the status quo. Rather, we must continue to ask, “What if?”. and why not?’ Our future and future generations and our planet depend on it.”

Ethan Demol ’26

“Through the Fundamentals of Management and Entrepreneurship course, we become much more aware of how closely business and environmental health are really linked, and that makes me much more aware. To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about it before. I think in the future I would probably like to do something similar. I may not be quite as generous as he is, but I like the idea.

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“I think ultimately it comes down to someone’s moral compass. What is very important for the future of the environment is that people associate harming the environment with their moral compass because they don’t usually put two and two together and don’t think they are immoral. It’s even my fault for not really realizing that, but when they make that connection, I think people become a lot more aware and aware of the harm they could be doing.”

Rohit Nayak MBA’23

“Patagonia is a slap in the face for people who believe that social and economic value cannot be created at the same time.

“Patagonia started with a simple $1.5 million product that solved a real environmental problem for people who love to be outdoors and climb. In 1957, Yvon invented and manufactured the first parts of his invention, a hook, from material he found at a junkyard. And so the company began; the company that 65 years later will pledge $3 billion to build a better environment. Today, Patagonia has become an example and a playbook for entrepreneurs on how to build a business that has the concept of simultaneously creating social and economic value in its DNA from the start. The core motivation for the company hadn’t moved while the company itself moved a million miles!”

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Timi Janet Osinowo ’26

“I think it was a really cool thing because a lot of people have really bad stereotypes about people who run big companies like they don’t care about anything other than making money. I think it was a really good way to show that money is not the most important thing for entrepreneurs. Helping people and just being a better person for everyone is one of the things entrepreneurs are concerned with.

“I think it was a really good way to show that money isn’t the most important thing for entrepreneurs and helping people and just being a better person for everyone is one of the things entrepreneurs are about .”
Timi Janet Osinowo ’26

“It’s something you can be made aware of, but at the end of the day it’s your choice, right? It’s something that has to come from within. Someone can always tell you that, but in the end it’s your choice.”

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