Nature Conservancy, Patagonia Tap Into Real Patagonia

Eager to broaden its environmental mission to mass consumer brands and audiences, the Nature Conservancy is helping Patagonia (the brand) rescue Patagonia (the place.)

Starting next month, Patagonia, the outdoor gear marketer that has long been a leader among environmentally conscious brands, will start selling a new line of 100% sustainable, high-quality merino wool products, fully sourced from its namesake region in South America. The grasslands area, spanning both Argentina and Chile, was on the brink of desertification until the Nature Conservancy scientists began teaching regional farmers sustainable grazing practices. 

Nature Conservancy CMO Geof Rochester tells Marketing Daily that the Patagonia promotion is exciting from both ecological and marketing points of view. First, the wool comes from ranches that are learning to apply the Grassland Regeneration and Sustainability Standard (GRASS), agreed upon by the Nature Conservancy and Ovis XXI, another nonprofit group. And it’s a model that is regenerative, in that it actually tries to improve the grasslands, rather than simply doing less harm.



But from a marketing perspective, such efforts have the chance to connect with a much broader audience, Rochester says. “I’m sure it will excite Patagonia’s core audience, but it will also get outside the core, and that’s so important. When it penetrates beyond that, you will see a share shift in sustainable wool, just as we have in sustainable coffee.”

Rochester says TNC is “in the midst of a re-imagination, to become more of a consumer-facing organization. We worry that some people think of the conservation movement as left-leaning, and we know it’s bi-partisan. So we’re on a mission to partner with mega-brands to reach consumers in new and interesting ways.”

Last year, for example, it worked with Macy’s on its Brazil promotion, raising funds for the Amazon Rain Forest. And with Subway, it helped create bags for six million kids’ meals, featuring endangered species. 

Moving forward, he says the nonprofit is working on water awareness campaigns in South America, as well as marine protection in the Caribbean.

“We want to make sure conservation and the environment are viewed as something for everybody. So we want to be seen in unexpected places, in ways that will have impact on Gen X, Baby Boomers and Millennials.”

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