Ten years after its original publication, Penguin Books has released a completely revised and expanded edition of Patagonia founder and owner Yvon Chouinard’s classic 2006 memoir, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman – with more than 40 per cent new material and featuring a new foreword by activist and author Naomi Klein.
In the new edition, Chouinard explains how his business and environmental views have evolved in a decade marked by global recession and intensifying environmental crisis as well as unprecedented success for his company – bringing great opportunities as well as hard challenges for Patagonia along the way. Let My People Go Surfing is a blueprint for creating all facets of responsible business, from design to production, to marketing and human resources.
Since it was first published, Patagonia has attained major growth and now approaches $1 billion in sales annually. This success springs from Patagonia’s original mission, as outlined in the book: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
In a completely rewritten chapter on environmental philosophy, Chouinard expresses deep concerns about the planet’s health in the face of climate change and other threats to the natural world. In response to these new threats, he has added a new element to his philosophy for responsible business: Do Good.
In Chouinard’s view, in making business decisions that will lead to long-term success, Patagonia, and other responsible businesses, must account not only for the bottom line, but also the right thing to do. And more than just simply attempting to cause less harm, Chouinard writes about a new vision of agriculture as part of the solution through regenerative practices designed to reduce carbon in the atmosphere and restore the soil that gives our planet life.
Patagonia has begun investing heavily in regenerative agriculture, both to support practitioners on the cutting edge of this movement and to source food and natural fibers in ways that actually begin to reverse the damage humans have caused to our planet. As Chouinard writes, “All the work we do at Patagonia to be a more responsible company is for naught unless we can be part of the solution to this problem.”
That philosophy has become embedded in the company’s business model in the past decade – leading to plant-based wetsuits, a startup food business, innovative standards to improve the lives of workers in Patagonia’s global supply chain, and a venture fund designed to support like-minded young companies, among many other initiatives.
As Naomi Klein writes in the new foreword to Let My People Go Surfing, “This is the story of an attempt to do more than change a single corporation – it is an attempt to challenge the culture of consumption that is at the heart of the global ecological crisis.”
When he was a child, Chouinard moved with his French-speaking family from a declining mill town in Maine to fast-urbanizing Southern California. Let My People Go Surfing is the portrait of a young misfit who discovered his calling on Yosemite’s big walls, as an equipment innovator who changed climbing forever, and as an entrepreneur who brought doing good to the heart of his business. Chouinard lives in Ventura, California, where Patagonia is based.