Patagonia and the environment – these two words are forever intertwined in the minds of consumers, thanks to the outdoor clothing company's remarkable reputation as a pioneer on the path of corporate sustainability. Environmental stewardship is built right into the company’s mission statement, which reads 'Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.'

Named among the world's most ethical companies by The Ethisphere Institute in March 2010, Patagonia makes it easy for consumers to actively participate in green solutions to common environmental challenges in the apparel business on an interactive mini-site called The Footprint Chronicles. The site allows consumers to track the impact of specific Patagonia products from design through delivery.

Users who click on a product – like, for example, the Talus Jacket – get a detailed look at where and how the design, materials, construction and distribution take place. The energy consumption, distance traveled, carbon dioxide emissions and waste generated are right there for all to see, and Patagonia minces no words in each self-critique. The good and the bad of each product is unveiled, and the company lays out their plans for improvement and invites consumers to contribute their ideas.

Responsible Business Practices

Patagonia's definition of 'quality' extends beyond the craftsmanship of its outdoor clothing and gear. The company holds itself to high standards of environmental stewardship and social responsibility, from the raw materials it chooses for its products to its waste management and energy conservation practices. "We bear ultimate responsibility for the social and environmental cost of every Patagonia product no matter where incurred," writes the company on its website.

That means acting on the suggestions and desires of customers, stakeholders and environmental experts alike. There's always plenty of room to grow and improve, but Patagonia is certainly off to a running start. The first apparel company to convert its entire product offering to 100% organically grown cotton and to use fleece made from post-consumer recycled plastic soda bottles, Patagonia now allows consumers to recycle old garments through the Common Threads Recycling Program.

At Patagonia's LEED Gold-Certified Reno, Nevada distribution center, green innovations include storm runoff management, intelligent landscape design, recycled and local building materials and natural lighting. A solar array provides much of Patagonia's Ventura, California headquarters with green power and the company also relies on wind for 50 percent of its energy needs.

Planting the Seed of Eco-Awareness

As a leader in green business, Patagonia recognizes that changes it makes to its own practices can inspire other companies to do the same – so that the positive impact on the world can continue to grow. But Patagonia's desire to give back to the natural world extends beyond being a good example.

Patagonia has given out more than $35 million in grants and donations to environmental organizations since 1985, pledging at least 1 percent of sales and allowing visitors to its stores to decide how to distribute the money through the Voice Your Choice campaign. The company also raises awareness about the human impact on trout through the World Trout Initiative, and even pays its employees to volunteer with the environmental organization of their choice. Patagonia employees are also creating a new national park in Chilean Patagonia – the company's namesake – after a vast tract of wilderness was purchased for restoration and protection by Patagonia's former CEO, Kristine Thompkins.

Patagonia's current environmental campaign is Freedom to Roam, which aims to create, restore and protect corridors between habitats so animals like wolverines, salmon and pintail ducks can survive the consequences of global warming. This non-profit initiative brings together people, businesses and organizations to raise public awareness of these corridors and support national policy changes to benefit them.

For more information on Patagonia and the environment, check out the environmentalism section of the company's website.