答：這個活動動已經造成很大的正面影響了。我們因為這個活動，使得我們的曝光率大大提升，因為我們扮演的是領導者的角色，有許多社論把我們當討論的對象。許多雜誌也提供我們免費的廣告版面。目前為止，我們並沒有影響行銷方面的確切數據－現在時機仍然太早－但我們知道這確實對投票人註冊有影響。我估計大約有 100,000 未投過票的人，會因為我們的活動而去註冊。
Yvon Chouinard, world-class mountaineer, diehard surfer, obsessive fly fisher -- oh yes, and founder and owner of Patagonia -- is as famous for his brio and gutsy outdoorsmanship as he is for his visionary business strategy. A Maine-born blacksmith, Chouinard has built Patagonia, a purveyor of top-quality outdoor goods, into a $230 million company without taking it public. Now in his mid 60s, he has for decades maintained a tireless my-way-or-the-highway attitude toward corporate America that has helped him nudge both colleagues and competitors in the direction of sustainability.
Patagonia was the first major retail company to switch all its cotton clothing over to organic, the first to make fleece from recycled soda-pop bottles, and the first to pledge 1 percent of its annual sales to grassroots environmental organizations. It has since touched off a trend that has big-name brands such as the Gap, Levi's, Nike, and Timberland incorporating organic materials into their products and taking steps to minimize environmental harm. Of course, Patagonia is not entirely free of environmental fault. For one, the multinational company does much of its manufacturing overseas, and therefore must burn a fair amount of fuel to transport its materials and products around the globe.
But in the past several months, Patagonia has scored another notable first -- launching the half-a-million-dollar Vote the Environment project to rally outdoor enthusiasts to the polls on Nov. 2. Chouinard spoke with Grist from his Patagonia headquarters in Ventura, Calif., about the presidential campaign, the challenges of pushing a business toward sustainability, why he's more powerful than Bill Ford, and whether the planet is toast.
Q: What motivated you to launch Patagonia's Vote the Environment campaign?
A: Well, I was talking to Jesus last night [laughter] and He told me that everybody's got it all wrong -- that He really doesn't want us to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil, that we're screwing everything up and we need to live a more examined life.
Q: You've got a direct line to Jesus! What else did He say?
A: Well, He doesn't talk to me very often -- He was pretty brief.
You know, I'm just so disappointed that there's nobody talking about the environment. Even though the Pentagon itself has come out and said that one of the biggest threats to American security is global warming. You listen to these [presidential] debates -- they're so stupid they're unbelievable. The questions are stupid and the answers are stupid and nobody's talking about the massive environmental problems we're facing, whether it's Bush or Kerry. It's a sad deal. I want the environment to be a much bigger part of the political process. It only occupies 5 percent of the political agenda. Five percent! And to me it really is the bottom line.
Q: Let's get back to the details of the Vote the Environment campaign. I know the mission is to inspire outdoor enthusiasts to get out there and vote. How are you recruiting voters?
A: We're helping voters register online and at our retail stores and asking them to make the environment their No. 1 priority. We're not telling anybody how to vote.
Q: Why aren't you calling it the Vote Against Bush campaign, given that Bush is widely criticized as having the worst environmental record in history while Kerry's environmental record is widely applauded?
A: Legally we can't -- corporations are supposed to stay out of the endorsement game. And for me, all that matters is really to tell people to look at each candidate's environmental record and decide for themselves.
Q: Can you talk about your own opinions about the candidates?
A: Not in this context -- I'm a representative of Patagonia. They'll nail me. [Laughter.]
Q: But if anyone took even one minute to try and figure out which presidential candidate represents the environmental vote, it would be obvious who that is, wouldn't it?
A: Yes, but it's not just the presidential candidates -- there are a lot of people who are running for Congress and the Senate and city council races and all kinds of stuff. And I'm saying look at their environmental records because it's more important than anything else they say or do.
Q: More important than the war, health care, education, everything?
A: Yes, in that it's deeply connected to almost every one of those issues. I'm sick and tired of a society -- I'm not talking about politics, I'm talking about a society -- that is only dealing with symptoms of a problem and not the root cause. Our health-care problems are deeply connected to the environment. Consider breast cancer -- you've got one in eight American women who are going to get breast cancer, that's up from one out of 30 right after World War II, so there's got to be an environmental cause to it. And yet only 3 percent of cancer research funding goes to trying to find the environmental causes. They're trying to find treatments so they can make money off of it. The same thing goes for our so-called War on Terror. We're not looking at the root cause of our conflict with the Middle East, resource dependency; we're treating the symptoms.
I find that people concerned about the environment tend to be a lot more honest than people who aren't. I think you can trust them. If you are voting for a congressman who has a really good voting record on the environment and the other guy who's got a 10 percent [voting record], let me tell you I think that 10 percent guy is probably going to get indicted for something pretty soon.
Q: What kind of feedback have you gotten from your customers about this campaign?
A: We've gotten hundreds of email responses on the campaign and more than 50 percent aren't happy. I got lots of letters back from our customers really angry at us for getting political and telling them, they think, what to do.
I have one of the letters right here: "We are given the gift of our land by God in which to have dominion. That means to use and to a degree pollute. We are also called by God not to worship idols. The notion of a largely untouched pristine environment has become a quasi-religious idol for many. Hence with regard to environmentalism we have a distorted hubris, even dark influence."
Q: That guy must be talking to a different Jesus than the one you're talking to! Is it alarming to discover that so many of your customers are anti-environmentalism?
A: It's surprising, not alarming. I couldn't care less. I could get 10,000 letters saying "Take me off your mailing list" and it wouldn't bother me. If you're not getting those letters, you're not trying hard enough. That's the way I see it.
What they don't realize is that I'm not in the business to make clothes. I'm not in the business to make more money for myself, for Christ's sake. This is the reason Patagonia exists -- to put into action the recommendations I read about in books to avoid environmental collapse. That's the reason I'm in business -- to try to clean up our own act, and try to influence other companies to do the right thing, and try to influence our customers to do the right thing. So we're not going to change. They can go buy from somewhere else if they don't like it.
Q: What will be the effect of the Vote the Environment campaign on your sales?
A: It's already having a huge effect on the good side. We're getting so much publicity off of it, a lot of editorials because we've taken a leadership position. Magazines have given us free ads. We can't tell exactly how it's affecting our sales yet in terms of numbers -- it's too early -- but we do know it's having an effect on registration. My estimate so far is that we're going to get 100,000 people to register that have never voted before.
Q: That's enough to tip the election if you pull in pro-environment votes in the right swing states.
A: That's new voters. We're not going to change anybody's mind who's already made up their mind. But something like 20 percent of single women have never voted. That's a huge constituency.
Q: Your Vote the Environment campaign is applying the same marketing strategies to politics as Patagonia does to sell its products. Could the political world stand to learn some marketing savvy from the corporate world?
A: Yeah. When I look at how these guys are marketing themselves, the politicians, I'm thinking, Oh my God! Oh man, this is pathetic! You see Kerry out there with a coat, tie, and a starched shirt giving a speech to a bunch of autoworkers and you think, Oh my God, who dressed this guy? All Kerry has to do is go bass fishing and go to NASCAR races to loosen up his image
Q: What do you think are the environmental problems that the next president should be most concerned about?
A: Well, I'm a real pessimist. I think as a society we're toast, to tell you the truth. I don't know whether it's going to be running out of water or topsoil, or disease, or endless wars being fought over resources. The Israelis are never going to give up the West Bank -- that's where all the water is. It's all about resources, it's all about territory, and it's going to be a lot of gnashing of teeth. And any one of these things could be deadly serious, or it could happen all at once. And when you talk about the economy, the economy is so shaky because it's based on all of us just consuming and discarding endlessly non-renewable resources and you can't do that forever. There's good reason for people to feel insecure.
Q: Do you think that corporate leaders who are in business to make money simply can't take a stand on any controversial causes because it might hurt their bottom line?
A: First of all, if they're a public company they can't do anything -- they're beholden to their shareholders. Patagonia is a private company, and the sole stockholders are me and my wife, so we can do anything we want. But if you're CEO of a public company, the board of directors tells you what to do, and the stockholders tell the board of directors what to do, so there's no way you can take a stance on anything controversial. Bill Ford says he's an environmentalist, so deep down in his heart I'm sure he believes he shouldn't be making SUVs, period. He shouldn't allow the stockholders to tell him what to do. But he can't do it. He has no power. I have way more power than Bill Ford does. (to be continued...)