Watercooler: Rockin' The Vote
To encourage Americans to hit the polls and practice their 15th Amendment rights, some brands have stepped up to support voting, and specifically to encourage young people to vote. This year, the call to vote was perhaps more vigorous than in previous years—in the 2016 election, less than half of all 18- to 29-year-olds voted, according to AdAge, and the election itself came down to a difference of a combined 77,000 votes from swing states Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, out of the more than 136 million voters, according to the Washington Examiner, leading President Trump to win the Electoral College’s vote despite losing the popular vote. This year, Patagonia, which is known for its social activism, took extra steps to remove any barriers standing in the way of Americans casting their ballot.
At Patagonia, the Ventura, California, outerwear company placed tags inside its Regenerative Organic Stand-Up Shorts—its latest line of men’s and women’s shorts—telling customers how to vote. The eyebrow-raising phrase is from Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia and nonprofit 1% for the Planet, who said she’s speaking specifically to politicians who disregard the severity of climate change. The shorts themselves are also regenerate organic certified (ROC), meaning that their production meets the highest standards for soil health, farmworker fairness and animal health.
Together with PayPal and Levi Strauss, Patagonia is also one of the founders of Time to Vote, a non-partisan community of 882 members who further encourage voting by paying their employees to do so. In the 2016 election, 411 companies participated in the Time to Vote movement, and this year, there were more than 1,000 participants. Patagonia closed the doors of its California headquarters, distribution center and all of its retail stores on Election Day and allowed for up to four days of paid time off for employees who volunteered as poll workers. It also partnered with nonprofits in the 20 states where Patagonia stores are located to share information about voting and answer voters’ questions, partnering with nonprofits More Than A Vote, Georgia Youth Poll Worker Project and Power the Polls to recruit poll workers. The company also used its website to promote Public Trust, a documentary that reveals how public land plays a role in the global climate crisis.
By getting involved in the push to vote, Patagonia is not only supporting consumers by encouraging them to practice their rights, but it’s also communicating an issue that’s very crucial to the company itself—environmentalism. But that’s also something that strongly works in Patagonia’s favor. In “Brands Creating Change in the Conscious Consumer Era,” a 2019 study of 1,505 U.S. consumers conducted by Sprout Social, 70 percent of consumers said that it’s important for brands to take a public stand on social and political matters, searching an issue further (61 percent), donating to a cause (55 percent), registering to vote (53 percent), voting for a specific candidate (42 percent), participating in a protest (39 percent) and contacting a politician (33 percent).
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.