Discussion 3: Patagonia and a philosophy of what business is for

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Doing business at Patagonia

The video above is a short explanation by Rick Ridgeway (Links to an external site.), VP of Environmental Affairs, of several ways that Patagonia (Links to an external site.) tries to advance some of their company goals. He discusses, among other things, generous leave policies for new parents, environmentally sensitive manufacturing, and repairing and recycling past purchases for customers.

Note that he uses the phrase “social justice” several times as a label for some of their projects. This term often thrown about in discussions of business and politics–and often in ways that convey aversion to the term. But the phrase is very often not carefully defined. So we don’t always know what people have in mind when they use it and discussions of it often end up with people talking past each other.

Ridgeway doesn’t define it here either, but note the specific examples he references when he does use the term. You could probably just understand his use of the phrase as meaning something like “treating people fairly” and he seems to mainly apply it to internal Patagonia policies. Focus, though, on his specific examples.

After watching, proceed to the next section.

Some questions

Choose one of the numbered set of questions below to address (note that each numbered set contains several questions: address all of the questions within the set).

  1. Based on this video alone, what seem to be the primary values of Patagonia? How are these values consistent with the business goal of making a profit? Based on his comments, what do Ridgeway and Patagonia seem to think is the purpose of business? What should business primarily do?
  2. What is to stop all businesses from putting into place similar policies? Is there something about Patagonia that makes it easier for them to adopt these policies than it would be for other businesses? If so, what is it? Do you think that Patagonia would continue with the policies if they began to have difficulty earning a profit? (This last question calls for some speculation on your part, I know, but feel free to speculate away!)
  3. Would you be more or less likely to want to work for Patagonia after watching this? Why? Would you be more or lesslikely to purchase a Patagonia product after watching this? Do your responses to these two questions indicate anything about your philosophical views about the purpose and function of business and its moral responsibilities in conducting its business activities? Explain.

Discussion posting instructions

Post

In your post, answer all of the questions in one of the sets above.

Be sure to (1) state which set you’re answering and then (2) compose a thoughtful, considered response to the questions, explaining your answer in a way that leaves the reader with a good understanding of your thinking.

After you have written your thoughtful response, (3) end your post with a question that you think would need to be answered in light of what you’ve written or by anyone else attempting to answer the question you’ve answered or any other question raised by issue. Doing this encourages the idea that there’s more that needs to be said and thought about in your response, that your response cannot have covered everything and addressed every aspect of the question. A good question is one that would require a thoughtful, reflective paragraph-long responses and could not be answered in a word, phrase, or short sentence. So the question needs to be an open-ended question. It should not just repeat one of the questions above. Nor should it merely ask what the reader thinks of your response. And explain why you’re asking this question. Note that you are not answering your own question; rather you are explaining why you’re asking this question, why it’s an important question to be asked.

Comments

After you have composed and submitted your post, comment on two other posts. Do this by writing thoughtful responses to the question that the posts ask at the end of their post (although you also may certainly comment on anything else in their post that you find interesting, especially if it is connected to your response to their question.)

Note: If you are among the first students to post, there may be none–or not very many–other posts on which to comment. So you may need to return in several days to read and comment on posts by other students.

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