Social networking sites such as Twitter have provided people and organizations the ability to spread their message to large audiences and build a platform to promote shared advocacy. Patagonia, a company that defines itself by its corporate culture of sustainable business, concern for stakeholders, and stewardship of the environment, has been able to demonstrate these characteristics of culture through their Twitter activity and leveraging the tools Twitter affords to amplify their and others’ ideas.
The social media platforms that have gained widespread attention in the last 10-15 years have provided both challenges and opportunities for people and organizations. For an organization, these challenges have revolved around adapting or defining a corporate identity that takes into account people’s ability to receive and share information about the business at any time to potentially large audiences, and underestimating what can happen to the organization when people harness that newfound power to the organization’s detriment. Conversely, the opportunities lie in being able to forge new connections, share the company’s message, and attract and retain both customers and future employees.
These social media platforms can serve as channels through which an organization can espouse and exercise its corporate identity and culture. As Rubin and Carmichael note, corporate culture is the sum of all actions a company takes, be it how it deals with its employees, its consumers, and its suppliers (Rubin and Carmichael, 2018). They further note that culture is then made real through corporate branding, where branding “not only represents how a corporation demonstrates its values and strategies through its actions but also becomes the primary connection between a stakeholder’s feelings and perceptions of the organization” (2018).
Such a platform through which a company can share its culture and shape its brand is Twitter. This network, which affords its users the ability to share brief messages to followers and to comment or share others’ messages, has over 320 million users around the world (Hootsuite, 2019). With access to such a large potential worldwide audience, corporations may be able to leverage that reach to spread their message and engage with its audience in immediate and often personal ways.
This article will show that Patagonia, a premium outdoor sportswear and equipment company formed by Yvon Chouinard in 1973, has set out to show its culture through its brand on Twitter. During an interview on National Public Radio’s Podcast “How I Built This,” Chouinard boiled down the basis for Patagonia’s corporate identity and the reasons they engage in the socially responsible activities they do: “I believe that this company is the resource that I have, and that I should use that resource to show a different way of doing business” (Raz, 2017). As Fast Company notes, and counter to Milton Friedman’s central premise that a company’s primary responsibility is to its shareholders and that social responsibility is ill-advised (Friedman, 1970), Patagonia “has built a righteous flywheel, like an Amazon for do-gooders: The more it invests in its beliefs and its products, the better Patagonia performs, develops creative solutions, and maps out a blueprint for other businesses, big and small, to follow” (Beer, 2018).
Patagonia is clear about its corporate identity by sharing its “reason for being” on its Mission Statement, which include building the best product, not causing harm, using business to protect nature, and not being bound by convention (Patagonia, 2019). Their web site explores these topics further in separate web pages and blogs, such as The Footprint Chronicles, which provides insight into and highlights stories drawn from its supply chain; The Cleanest Line, which is Patagonia’s main blog; and specific sections detailing its sustainability mission and its efforts dealing with environmental and social responsibility.
|Patagonia Tweets and Interactions August 26-September 20|
|Number||Number||Interaction: Comment||Interaction: Retweet||Interaction: Like|
(Source: https://twitter.com/patagonia) (See Appendix A for an interaction breakdown by date.)
Patagonia manifests these principles through its Twitter feed, where they have over 447K followers. A review of their activity from August 26 through September 20, which is detailed in Table 1 above, shows they sent out 26 messages to engage their audience. Overall, these messages received 2,585 comments, 26,178 shares, and 153,857 likes. (See Appendix B for more information on Patagonia’s Twitter engagement and activity over time.)
Figure 1: Heat map of related topics (Source: app.talkwalker.com)
One can drill down to identify meaning from those messages by analyzing their hashtags. In this heat map of related hashtags in Figure 1, the size of each of these hashtags represents their relevance for and connection to Patagonia, whether Patagonia or its audiences use them; thus, the larger the hashtag, the more important it is. In this case, the #ClimateChange and #BCorp hashtags were shown to be the most relevant for Patagonia and its audience. Broadly speaking, there are several themes that one can recognize from this heat map and tie back to its Mission Statement, specifically Patagonia’s sustainability efforts in its business and its work to bring attention to climate change and the environment.
Figure 2 (Source: https://twitter.com/patagonia)
First, Patagonia crafted messages that showed support of and commitment to its efforts in sustainability. As shown in Figure 2 above, Patagonia aims to highlight its efforts toward running a sustainable business that aligns with the idea of stakeholder capitalism, which is a theory that gives equal weight to the goals of each person or group that may have a tie to the business, as opposed to singling out group over another (Donaldson, 95). To maintain a B Corporation certification, Patagonia is required to balance purpose and profit as well as consider what impact their decisions have on its employees, suppliers, the community, and the environment (Certified B Corporation, 2019) (See Appendix C for B Corp Impact Report and more information on B Corporations and its connection to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals). Through this tweet, Patagonia’s aim is to show commitment to and make manifest its stated goal of having a positive impact on people, communities, and the environment.
Second, it shared messages to connect its initiatives and show and encourage support of Greta Thunberg’s climate strike and speech at the UN, which happened to coincide with this time span. Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old climate activist, began a climate strike in her native Sweden called “School Strike for Climate” in 2018, where she encouraged other children to skip school on Fridays to demand action on climate change (Woodward, 2019). These strikes soon drew worldwide attention, and in the year that followed, she’s spoken at the UN, led several large student strikes, been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and had her own TED talk. In late August, as she refused to fly because of airline travel’s carbon footprint, she sailed from Europe to New York on a carbon neutral sailboat (Woodward, 2019). Her trip in New York culminated with a protest on September 20, which drew close to 250,000 people in New York City as well as almost four million people in 161 countries.
|Figure 3 (Source: https://twitter.com/patagonia)||Figure 4 (Source:https://twitter.com/patagonia)|
Through the tweets shown in figures 3 and 4 above, among others in its feed, Patagonia showed its support not only of the children protesting but also what they were protesting for, which aligns with its reason for being. The tweets exemplify Patagonia’s effort to create a platform of “shared advocacy” (Rubin & Carmichael, 2018), in that the company compelled others to join the protest as well as closed their retail locations on September 20 as a show of support.
The common strain between the two broad themes highlighted by the tweets in Figures 2, 3, and 4 as well as the others noted in the heat map of Figure 1 is its commitment to its corporate social responsibility initiatives and show how its branding is its corporate culture made real.
- Beer, J. (2018, March 15). How Patagonia Grows Every Time It Amplifies Its Social Mission. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/40525452/how-patagonia-grows-every-time-it-amplifies-its-social-mission
- Certified B Corporation. (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2019, from https://bcorporation.net/.
- Donaldson, T. & Preston, L. (1995). The stakeholder theory of the Corporation: Concepts, Evidence, and Implications. The Academy of Management Review, 20(1), 65-91.
- Friedman, M. (1970, September). The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. The New York Times.
- Raz, G. (Host) (2017, December 25). Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2018/02/06/572558864/patagonia-yvon-chouinard
- Rubin, J., & Carmichael, B. (2018). Reset: Business and Society in the New Social Landscape. New York: Columbia Business School Publishing, Columbia University Press.
- Woodward, A. (2019, September 24). How 16-year-old Greta Thunberg became the face of climate-change activism. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/greta-thunberg-bio-climate-change-activist-2019-9.
This table is a breakdown by date of what Patagonia tweeted and retweeted through its Twitter feed from August 26 through September 20.
|Patagonia On Twitter: 8/26 Through 9/20|
The following links and reports provide further insight into Patagonia’s reach on Twitter and its engagement.
● Sparktoro allows people to delve into their audience and also provides a measure of influence called the SparkScore, which is derived from audience engagement and follower size, among other characteristics. Their reports show statistics across the life of the account, detailing averages for how the audience engages with a message, and it also streams the last 100 tweets.
You can read Patagonia’s report here:
● Twitonomy provides another account of Twitter statistics for Patagonia from February of 2018 to today.
Every year, companies who have been certified as a B Corporation receive a B Impact Report that includes an Overall B Impact Score. The higher the score, the greater the impact. The median for non-B Certified businesses is 50.9 and the minimum score to qualify for a B Corporation is 80; Patagonia received a 151.5 overall score.
● To learn more about the B Impact Report and the scores that go into determining it, you can read Patagonia’s B Impact Report here: https://bcorporation.net/directory/patagonia-inc
● In addition, you can also learn more about B Corporations and the commitments these organizations agree to by reviewing their website: https://bcorporation.net
● This year, the non profit that runs this certification will be developing a tool to help businesses track, assess, and improve their performance on the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?menu=1300). More information can be found here: https://bcorporation.net/news/b-lab-partners-united-nations-global-compact-develop-online-platform-sdg-focused-impact
● B Corporations are expected to release a yearly report on their progress on the B Corporation certification goals. Patagonia released one for 2018 here: https://bcorporation.net/news/b-lab-partners-united-nations-global-compact-develop-online-platform-sdg-focused-impact
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