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Putting your beliefs to the test

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When put to the test, leaders do what’s right, even if it’s difficult.

For longtime environmentalist, Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, the test came in 1994, when he learned that industrially farmed cotton, which figured in 20% of the company’s sales, required toxic chemicals.

He gave the company 18 months to switch to organic cotton—or leave. “I said, ‘I don’t want to be in business if I have to use this product.’”

The transition was difficult. Patagonia had to find farmers who grew organic cotton, overcome resistance from banks, and find new gins and mills. “We went a year without making a profit on our cotton products,” he says.

But it didn’t take long for the switch to become profitable. The bigger point, says Chouinard: It was the right thing to do.

Adapted from "Yvon Chouinard: Patagonia Founder Fights for the Environment," Kent Garber, U.S. News and World Report.

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