Time to break the rules: How to put sustainability first

By Marco Passoni

I read a recent interview with Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard, the man who has set the bar for delivering true sustainability in business. He is someone worth listening to in the current market as he has blazed a trail with a forward thinking approach which truly has sustainability at its heart.

In the conversation, with McKinsey & Co, Chouinard underlined something I have long believed: We need a new way of thinking.

“Patagonia has time and again broken the rules of traditional business and proven we can still be successful,” Chouinard says. This much is true. The company’s iconic ‘do not buy this jacket’ campaign underlined the importance of reducing waste, from a company founded on creating new products.

But breaking the rules is necessary when innovation is needed, and business leaders today need to realise that doing the right thing can create a successful business too. It would be a nice idea if we could all do this for the right reasons, but the bottom line remains vital – and delivering sustainability does not mean damaging your business.

Chouinard’s ideas are encapsulated in three core ideals: Awareness, realism and honesty. These three are also deeply interlinked.

We can’t delude ourselves into thinking that anything we or any other business does is ‘sustainable’. The best we can do is minimize the harm we do to the planet.

– Yvon Chouinard

Firstly, awareness allows us all to recognise that there is something in the world which is bigger than you and your business. Some issues surpass us all. Securing the future of our planet is one of these. It is an idea and a concept which must be built into the fabric of what we do – literally in some cases.

Secondly, we must be realistic about our business. This ties into awareness too. Chouinard has a refreshing approach to the size of his company: “We have to be cautious about growing too big. A company doesn’t last 100 years by chasing endless growth. There’s an ideal size for every business and, when companies outgrow that, they die.”

The important thing to him is building for the long term, both in business and in life.

Finally, honesty is key. “We can’t delude ourselves into thinking that anything we or any other business does is ‘sustainable’. The best we can do is minimize the harm we do to the planet.” Chouinard hits the nail on the head here. Any company telling people they are fully sustainable while delivering new products is lying, either to themselves or to consumers. Or both.

This honesty also comes back to the earlier point. We must remember that incorporating sustainability into our businesses does not mean going out of business. Sustainability is part of business today.

At 2.0 & Partners, the idea of looking beyond our own business to something bigger is one which we fully believe in. For many years we, like many others, have worked alongside Ecologi to plant trees and offset our carbon footprint. This year we are also proud to have become Independent Sponsors of The Ocean Cleanup in their incredible work removing plastic pollution from the oceans.

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But this summer we wanted to do more. We wanted to put our own effort into this incredible cause and get our hands dirty. So, one 4 June we will host the first ever 2.0 & Partners Summer Beach Clean. Our team of Plastic Hunters will be on Jubilee Beach, Southend-on-Sea removing waste which could otherwise pollute our oceans and destroy ecosystems around the world.

If you would like to join us, we would be delighted to see you there. Get in touch to join the team.

Marco Passoni has decades of experience in the travel retail sector. He has spent the majority of his career in senior leader positions throughout the market, including a 12-year tenure as CEO of a leading international Duty Free distribution company and a further 8 years running a retail firm that operated fashion mono-brand stores in several international airports.
Today, as Senior Executive VP and founding partner of 2.0 & Partners, he leads the company’s efforts in developing and innovating services which create new opportunities and partnerships for all members of the travel retail Trinity. A former elite-level sailor, with a World Championship to his name, Marco now spends much of his time airside, experiencing the changing travel retail industry first-hand, to better guide partners and clients on the best way to do business in this vibrant and unique market.