Groundbreaking Move by Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard Challenges Social Sector to Step Up

A sunny day with a view of El Capitan in Yosemite.

The urgency of the climate crisis is being felt across the globe, from devastating floods in Pakistan and Mississippi to the punishing hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico and Florida. The UN’s April climate report starkly declared it’s “now or never if we want to reduce carbon emissions and avoid devastating temperature increases.

In the face of a crisis of this magnitude, bold and urgent action is required from everyone, and particularly those with greater resources and influence. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard upheld this principle with the audacious move to give away his company to save the planet.

Patagonia has been pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a responsible business for decades, from seeking out a green supply chain for their products and being at the forefront of prioritizing animal welfare to creating family-friendly policies for employees and investing 1 percent of sales in environmental philanthropy. Even against that backdrop, the decision to create a groundbreaking structure to cement social responsibility into the business’s mission via the Patagonia Purpose Trust, and permanently give away most of the family’s personal wealth, was stunning.

Tides is committed to upholding climate justice by shifting more resources and power to proximate leaders on the front lines. (Photo © Adam Kool)

Tides Foundation has been proud to partner with the Patagonia team for several years supporting its international grantmaking. We help the company move resources to climate and environmental justice groups around the world, with a specific focus on partnering with grassroots organizations who are on the front lines of these efforts. In line with the company’s vision, Patagonia continues to enable not only mobilizing resources to the places where they are needed the most, but to the very people who are best suited to defend our planet.

A recent report from the ClimateWorks Foundation stated that funding for the climate crisis makes up just 2 percent of philanthropic giving, falling far short of the need. While we know that the harshest consequences of climate change disproportionately affect communities of color, the proportion of that funding going to BIPOC-led organizations is minimal. Tides is working to change that by supporting climate justice leaders who are standing up for their communities and the planet, as well as seeking partners who can share the resources necessary to do so. We are committed to upholding climate justice by shifting more resources and power to these proximate leaders’ critical work on the front lines through initiatives such as the Frontline Justice Fund and WE LEAD.

We share Patagonia’s and Chouinard’s belief that as a business or a philanthropist, moving what resources you have as quickly as you can is essential. Since 2019, Tides has raised the rallying cry to our donors that it’s time to “get off your assets” to help address the urgent social and environmental justice issues in the U.S. and globally. We’ve been inspired and proud to see disbursements from Tides donor advised funds (DAFs) grow by 75 percent between 2019 and 2020, and we know that more of this bold action will pave the path toward systemic justice.

We stand with Chouinard’s intention “to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.” We know that not every company has the governance structure to mirror Patagonia’s actions, but we hope companies and donors can now reimagine brave and decisive ways of giving.

These are just a few ways that Tides is working to support partners willing to join the climate fight and uplift organizations on the front lines:

  • Tides-led climate initiatives. Tides Foundation leads two grantmaking initiatives specifically focused on supporting grassroots, BIPOC-led action on climate change. These include WE LEAD (the Women’s Environmental Leadership Fund), which was created to elevate, center, and resource women’s grassroots leadership on climate change, and the Frontline Justice Fund, which supports frontline groups combining public mobilization and legal strategies to protect the climate and reduce pollution.
  • Partner projects. We support a number of partner-led projects focused on community climate action. For example, Tides Center provides fiscal sponsorship to Mosaic, a national participatory grantmaking initiative investing in shared tools and resources to strengthen the movement for clean air and water, healthy communities, and a safer climate and the Green New Deal Network, a 50-state campaign working to build grassroots coalitions and drive policies that advance climate justice. Additionally, Tides Foundation funds the Climate and Community Project, which works to connect the demands of the climate justice movement with the policy process.
  • Custom-built climate grant portfolios. Tides also works with donors to create custom grant portfolios that drive their DAF resources to nonprofits working on a range of climate and environmental issues. Our advisors can identify nonprofits that resonate with your goals and interests that meet the needs of frontline groups.

Learn more about the impact of our climate justice initiatives that shift power to movement leaders working on the front lines of climate and environmental justice.

Updated on September 28, 2022.

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