Natalie Behring—The New York Times/Redux

I met Yvon Chouinard when I was 15—now I’m 72. I can say that not very much about him has changed during that time. His love of nature is as steadfast as it was then, as is his refusal, all his life, to deviate from his principles. When I was working with him at Patagonia, Yvon didn’t care about conventional business wisdom; he cared about creating his ideal of what a great company should be: excellent quality, authentic stories, and focused on “making clothes for all of us”—that is, especially for the hardcore users. He managed to do that. Patagonia is a company that people look up to and marvel at because it is a genuine reflection of who Yvon is. Many people were surprised when he and the family decided to give away the company to defend the planet and combat climate change last year. No one else had ever done anything like it. But Yvon is used to going against the grain. For him, it was just bringing things full circle.

Tompkins is the former CEO of Patagonia and co-founder of Tompkins Conservation

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