The Weekend Read – Let my people go surfing by Yvon Chouinard

chouinardSub-titled “The Education of a Reluctant Businessman”, I am indebted to my friend Richard Hellen for recommending this book. If you fail to be informed, inspired and encouraged then ask yourself why you are in business.

Patagonia is a company that deserves the attention of any business owner, employee or customer. Founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1964 as a mail order company to follow on from his original business of designing, manufacturing and distributing rock-climbing equipment which would not damage the rocks. The business grew slowly until 1972 when he started selling rugby shirts and the clothing business took off.

Dedicated to inspire and and implement solutions to the environmental crisis Patagonia pledges 1% of sales to preservation and restoration of the natural environment. Their products are designed to be sustainable, to work hard and to last.

They have suffered setbacks not least when they lost a series of law suits for “failing to inform” of safety issues related to usage of climbing hardware including one filed by the survivors of a climber who died in a fall after slipping out of a Chouinard climbing harness. The financial outcome led to bankruptcy and their abandoning climbing gear manufacture, but they regrouped and persevered.

This book is part autobiography, part story of a unique business and a detailed blueprint for hope. Firstly a man who has lived fully and challenged the wilderness, a business that lives as close to its principles as it can with a culture that cares for its people, both customers and staff, and products and finally does its best to sustain and protect our environment.

I cannot recommend it highly enough, it recently absorbed, entertained, informed and influenced me through two trans-Atlantic flights making me wonder about the source of the clothes that I was wearing and increasingly guilty about every mile of the damage that my journey was causing.

You can buy it here from The Book Depository.

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