By Dylan Beach

Patagonia have continued to strive forward throughout numerous environment and social initiatives, developing and working on projects across the globe. Last year their Yulex wetsuits were the first in the market to be neoprene free, winning the 2016 SBIA Environment Award. In 2017,  The Double Down took out the 2017 Environment Award, with Matt Martin representing Patagonia and recieved the awards on the night. In our second set of winner profiles we shot Matt a few questions to go a little further into The Double Down and the next step for Patagonia.

Congratulations on winning the environment brand of the year this year. Patagonia obviously have strong environment brand ethos that you strive towards and you took out last year’s award with your Yulex wetsuit. Is it still exciting when your name gets read out?

Thanks Dyl, Yes for sure, It’s definitely exciting to be the person who accepts the award on behalf of the Patagonia team. Last year was amazing as it was the Industry recognizing a revolutionary product that the Patagonia wetsuit team in Ventura  CA spent 8 years developing. It was a concept the company had been backing for a long time. I feel the decision they made and the steps they took 8 years ago was visionary and with more brands adopting natural rubber, it will be a pivotal point in years to come.  This year was great for different reasons. The “Double Down” campaign was an Australian initiative that Shannon Bourke, our Environmental and Social Initiatives Manager, Dane our GM, Naima and Sean in Marketing worked across, so it’s great to see them recognized for their efforts and the award was for a different type of environmental initiative other than product.  What I will say is, that’s it’s great to see many other companies producing products with an environmental aspect, be it recycling, using algae or more sustainable production methods-well done to you all. I didn’t commend them on the night but I should have.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the Double Down- that took out the award?

Certainly.  Firstly, it was a play on words, as Patagonia produce the highest quality Traceable Down Jackets on the market, in addition to products that utilize Recycled Down – to prevent it going to landfill. But the overall the Double Down concept had nothing to do with product. What we did was to acknowledge that there are a great deal of donation worthy groups out there that find it difficult to fund raise. So rather than aligning with one specific cause, we utilized the Patagonia network to connect with 6 environmental groups and used Pozzible , a matchfunding / crowdfunding platform to assist us in raising the  $125,000 for these groups.  For every dollar the group raised, we matched it up to $10,000 per group. What I like about it is, that as a Brand, even if you don’t have an environmental product to speak to specifically, you can use your network to raise money for environmental groups. It was a different way to look at it.

There are a lot of brands now that really strive towards having a strong environmental stand throughout a lot of products. As a brand, does Patagonia welcome that or do they see it as more competition in the marketplace?

Well, the brands Mission statement is very clear, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the Environmental Crisis”. The 3rd part is the answer to your question. They’re aware that one brand cannot accomplish what needs to be accomplished. Patagonia alone producing wetsuits with Yulex won’t move the global needle on the damage that Polychloropene /Neoprene does to the environment. But if, as an industry, we adopt a better practise and the surf industry leads the way then other industries will follow. So, in short, they welcome other brands and hope to inspire other brands to step into this space with authenticity. It’s the same with Fair Trade Certification, the more bands involved, the more impact we can have.

Some would say that over the past few years Patagonia has been sneaking under the radar building upon ranges and styles. What’s Patagonia’s plans leading into the larger surf market in the future?

That’s amusing as we haven’t really been trying to sneak under the radar, though I can see how it has come across that way. I felt like we were banging the drum loudly to anyone that would answer their phone, check their feed or pick up a magazine, but there’s certainly been a period whereby retailers and surfers spent time getting to know and trust the brand, and to see where it fits in with the store or their lives. It’s a complex brand and it’s not something you can fit into an elevator pitch, so it takes a little while to sink in.  As much as I enjoy the concept of it being a perfectly executed stealth plan, it was a really a case of the entire team working with retailers that shared the vision, not crowding the market place, then progressing with them season on season. Slowly building momentum.  For that I thank everyone wholeheartedly. We’re appreciative of the support that we have received and aim to improve continuously. I think the plan comes back to the mission statement really and that’s to have a voice in surf for positive change and to build the best product. We’ll see where that takes us.

 Where to next for the Patagonia team from the environmental side of things?

Well, there’s a considerable amount going and it’s too much to mention here in detail, but as a snapshot- overall on the product front, there’s a continual focus on improving design and implementing more sustainable methods. Patagonia are relentless on that front and it’s amazing to witness. We’re moving beyond using 100% Organic Cotton into using Recycled Cotton and we’ve already implemented the use of Recycled Down, both practices are saving what was once considered waste product from going to landfill. Closing the Loop so to speak. There’s a huge shift towards Fair Trade Certification, so for this Summer 17 we’ll have the World’s First 100% Fair trade Certified Swim and Boardshort line available. Our Fair-Trade items have grown radically over the last few years, which is fantastic.

Then, considering what’s occurring globally on the environmental front, with the USA pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement etc, we’ll look to occupy the Environmental Activism space in a more meaningful way. Locally we have issues too, so we’ll raise our voice here for our individual right to protest, which is currently under threat, and look to help protect the Tarkine region in Tasmania. Finally, there’s creating worn wear repair facilities that allow our customers to have their much loved and abused Patagonia product repaired and therefore extend the life of garments, bags and wetsuits. Other than that, we’re always hoping to get some waves with the guys and girls at work and while popping into towns to catch up with our retail partners.  Plus it’s starting to snow now, so looking forward to the winter swells, snowstorms and getting out amongst it.