Jun 15

Doug Tompkins is the Founder of Esprit and The North Face.

He left the business world behind to ‘create’ Laguna Blanca.



YouTube Added: 29.01.2013

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Organic Farming in Entre Ríos Province, Argentina

Douglas Tompkins: ‘There Is No Sustainable Business.’ (New York Times, Feb. 25, 2013):

BARCELONA — Sustainable entrepreneurship — a buzzword in an increasingly eco-conscious business world — is often described as a balance between profit and environmental impact.

It’s a subject that Douglas Tompkins seems to have thought a lot about. He founded Esprit and The North Face, two of America’s most iconic clothing and fashion brands, only to quit the business world to become a staunch conservationalist, environmentalist and critic.

“Remove ‘sustainable’ from your dictionary, there is no sustainable business. Only biological sustainability counts,” he told a room full of business students at the IESE business school Doing Great and Doing Good conference on responsible business. (Disclosure: I moderated a panel at the same conference).

“Economic activity has impact and we are just now doing a better job of measuring what those impacts are,” said Mr. Tompkins in an interview.

A strict conservationalist, he rejects the idea that big business can reform itself and thinks the answer lies outside what he calls the “techno-industrial culture.” He thinks measuring biodiversity is a yardstick for how society is doing.

“Healthy biodiversity is at the base of everything,” he said, with species extinction being the ultimate catastrophe. “We’ll be living on a sand heap with a Norwegian rat and a few cockroaches at the end.”

Despite having co-founded ESPRIT, the multinational clothing giant, and The North Face, the maker of outdoor equipment, in the 1960s and having earned millions of the sale of the former, Mr. Tompkins is critical of business’s paradigms.

“We have an economy that’s based on growth without limits,” he said. “How is that possible?”

“To grow and grow and grow without limits is out of the question,” he said.

Even the companies that he is famous for launching do not escape his disapproval.

“My two companies are two monsters now,” he said.

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