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Patagonia CEO Takes Aim at Infrastructure Bill, Doubles Down on Facebook Boycott

Patagonia is getting political—again.

The outdoor label known for its outspoken social and environmental activism called out President Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill for what it perceives as a slight to the American workforce.

While the nearly $2 trillion Build Back Better plan includes substantial provisions focused on clean energy and combatting climate change, Patagonia believes the bill shortchanges U.S. workers.

After protracted negotiations last week between President Biden and Senate Democrats like Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), a reworked version of the bill lacked one of its most central tenets: paid leave for new parents and caregivers minding sick relatives.

“The new Build Back Better framework offers significant progress toward getting our communities off fossil fuels, investing in our future through the Civilian Climate Corps and protecting nature—including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert said in a statement. “But we are disappointed that this proposal fails to provide workers with paid leave.”

The company’s stance aligns with that of most Americans. A Cato Institute poll revealed that 74 percent of Americans—88 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans—support the paid leave policy, the Beltway think tank noted.

“At Patagonia, we’ve seen how supporting our employees with paid leave and onsite childcare is essential to maintaining a robust and engaged workforce,” Gellert said, adding that companies should be held to account not just for their climate plans, but for their corporate promises to employees. “And our elected leaders must demonstrate the courage and leadership needed for the systemic change required to reach our environmental and social justice ambitions.”

Patagonia also took on Facebook last week, doubling down on its June 2020 commitment to avoid using the social media platform for paid advertising. Gellert said the clothing company took issue with the social media platform’s role in spreading “hate speech and misinformation about climate change and our democracy.”

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In recent weeks, “The Facebook Papers”—internal documentation obtained by one of the company’s former data scientists—have elicited an online furor. The leaked information revealed that Facebook employees were concerned about the increasingly corrosive social discourse on the site, especially leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Employee communications allege that Facebook leaders including founder Mark Zuckerberg ignored pleas to take action against those inciting violence, like former President Donald Trump.

What’s more, legislators are probing Facebook about internal documents showing the impact of its subsidiary, Instagram, on teens’ mental health and self-esteem. Based on the company’s own research, it has been well aware for some time of the damaging effects that the platform has on young users. “Facebook has taken Big Tobacco’s playbook,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, said last month. “It has hidden its own research on addiction and the toxic effects of its products, it has attempted to deceive the public and us in Congress about what it knows, and it has weaponized childhood vulnerabilities against children themselves.”

Gellert said the new revelations revived its commitment to boycotting the company. “The internal Facebook documents released over the last few weeks have made it incredibly clear that they know the irreparable damage that their lack of accountability causes their three billion users and the corrosive effects that has on society itself,” he said. “Facebook’s executives know what steps it can take to mitigate such harm–yet they have repeatedly failed to reform.”

Patagonia will steer clear of the platform for the foreseeable future, despite the ramifications of doing so. “[We] have learned to adapt,” Gellert said. “We are smarter and savvier in how we grow our community as a result of this advertising ban.”

“We encourage other businesses to join us in pushing Facebook to prioritize people and planet over profit,” he added.