I’ve been coaching youth sports for some time now, and one phrase that keeps coming up (though I think it’s wasted on the youth) is “Character Counts.” It’s a phrase that resonates deeply during this political season, as the candidates flip themselves inside out trying to seem sincere (Today, Rick Perry had the nerve to use a postcard as a prop for his “simplify the tax code” pitch – does he think we’ve all forgotten that Steve Forbes did this just a few years back?)

And so it resonates during this depression we’re technically not in – character counts. As an Apple junkie from the get-go, I dig the designs and respect the pricing of all the iTrinkets. The character of their products can’t be denied. Can’t help loving MontBlanc writing instruments.

But in my mind, no one comes close – never has – to Patagonia. Their new campaign”Don’t Buy This Shirt Unless You Need It” is perhaps the most profound environmental statement ever from a company that will perish if people don’t buy their stuff.

The Patagonia logic: if our business does not do everything possible to reduce pollution, climate change, environmental degradation, and a contributor to many of these issues: excess consumption, then our business SHOULD cease. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

From the Patagonia website: “We design and sell things made to last and to be useful. But we ask our customers not to buy from us what you don’t need or can’t really use. Everything we make – everything anyone makes – costs the planet more life than it gives back. The biggest, first step we can all take to reduce our impact is to do more with what we have….”

I fully respect and admire Patagonia for betting its very existence that customers will be more loyal than ever to a company that so fully shares its values. Bravo!

~ Christopher Smith

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