I am massively inspired by companies that do things their own way, led by entrepreneurs who use their business as a way of bringing about a change in the world that they believe in.
A pioneer of this new approach to business has undoubtedly been Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. Started in California in 1972, the company has been a leading light in ethical business. They were talking about sustainability and the need to produce their products in a way that had a limited impact on the environment, before it was cool.
As a company, they design clothes and products for people who love the outdoors - mountaineering, fishing, surfing and the like. Everyone who works there loves outdoor pursuits too - and they love the wild, beautiful natural environments that they do them in. Because of their love for the environment, they create products that will last a lifetime and that will be made from materials that have a minimal impact on the world.
But where I would say the company has had the biggest impact on the world has been through its activism against environmental destruction. It is one of a number of companies that has committed to the ‘One percent for the Planet' initiative, giving one percent of its sales or ten percent of its profits, whichever is greater, to environmental groups. So far it has donated over $25m.
The Patagonia story shows that running a business in an ethically minded way is not some kind of hippie fantasy. It’s possible to run a company ethically and with integrity and also become a commercial and financial success along the way. Your customers will love you for it - and your team even more so.
This is one of my articles on starting your own business, from my column on HotFrog. You can see them all here.