Young people from the SEED Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Australia. Credit: Jeff Tan Photography.

From its outset, adventure outfitter Patagonia has been a leader in corporate social responsibility. For founder Yvon Chouinard, creating the company was a way to make a living and protect the natural world that he loved exploring. That approach is reflected in Patagonia’s mission statement: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” As the business grew, Chouinard began to enlist others to join him in his conservation efforts: alongside fellow entrepreneur Craig Mathews, he created 1% for the Planet, a community of individuals and businesses who pledge 1% of their profits, net worth, or salary to worthy environmental causes.

Honoring its commitment to preserving the planet, Patagonia has developed a robust international grantmaking program alongside its domestic philanthropy. In 2004, the company’s leadership recognized that as their revenue grew, their 1% charitable pledge would require a strategic philanthropic partner who could grow with them. They looked to Tides, recognizing its reputation for well-informed strategic support, international experience, and alignment with Patagonia’s mission. Since then, Tides has overseen the company’s global grants management, constantly improving their philanthropic services.

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At the outset of the partnership, Patagonia’s geographical impact areas included Latin America, Canada, and Europe; with Tides’ help, the company’s international giving program has expanded to also include Australia, Japan and Korea, supporting groups like Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, empowering Aboriginal communities against fracking; Friends of the Earth Japan, encouraging an energy shift from fossil fuels to renewables; and the Korean Women’s Environmental Network, working to reduce micro-plastic pollution in the ocean. For Patagonia’s staff, Tides provides capacity building and training for processes like compliance and grantee communication; direct-to-grantee services including language translation, updating reporting forms for increased clarity, and coaching around grant requirements. “Tides makes it as easy as possible for us to go through the international grantmaking process hand-in-hand with our grantees,” says Sarah Ebe, Environmental Grants Associate at Patagonia. All of this work aims to reduce friction, save time, and help grantees focus on the conservation work they do best.

Funding small groups of grassroots environmental activists at a global scale is crucial for conservation and climate mitigation, but it’s not easy. We needed a partner that had the global expertise and capacity to handle a complex international program like ours, and Tides’ track record proved that they were up for the challenge. Their support helps us stay agile and constantly improve: they help us streamline our international grant processing, fine-tune our communication, and overcome the often unexpected challenges of international grantmaking.

Sarah Ebe, Environmental Programs Associate

The company seeks out activists with bold, direct-action agendas with a commitment to long-term change. They seek to support innovative work that addresses the root causes of the environmental crisis and seeks to protect both the environment and affected communities. Naturally, this admirable goal adds complexity to an already complicated international grantmaking landscape, but Tides’ track record in international philanthropy helps provide a clear path forward – from effective translation of grant materials to best practices in RFP processes. “We focus our philanthropy on giving to small, advocacy-based grassroots groups who are often overlooked or rejected by other funders,” Ebe says. “When it comes to RFP’s, Tides helps us identify the right players and move the needle on the issues we care about.”

Patagonia’s international grantmaking has grown in size and impact over time. In fiscal year 2018, the company made 244 grants in 33 countries, totaling almost $3 million through their international program. Patagonia has hosted the Tools for Grassroots Activists conference, offering opportunities for connection and capacity building every two years, effectively training a generation of environmental activists with 14 conferences in the U.S. since 1994, as well as 6 in Japan and 2 in Europe. Based on the success of the conference, Patagonia published a book in 2016 to share tangible tools and learnings with leaders in the broader environmental movement, which they’ve made accessible to their international grantees with translations in English, Korean, Kanji, and Spanish. Patagonia has also taken on special projects in emerging domestic issues, tapping into Tides’ expertise for research and strategy. As Patagonia’s programs continue to expand, Tides sees itself as a resource and ally, helping to train staff and provide constant ideas for programmatic and systems improvement. The result: a nimble, multifaceted partnership dedicated to advancing the efforts of grassroots preservation activists worldwide.

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