With their latest green initiative, Patagonia has turned to their namesake, in a move that looks beyond just sustainability to complete regeneration of an environment and entire region in desperate need. In the south of Argentina, up to 90% of land is privately owned and used for grazing. Over the years, uncontrolled grazing management has led to extreme habitat loss of the fragile Patagonian grasslands. Now looking to reverse these effects of overgrazing, Patagonia has teamed up with The Nature Conservancy and local rancher network Ovis XXI to implement a sustainable sheep grazing protocol.
The ground breaking partnership will initially focus on restoring 15 million acres of the over 400 million acres of Patagonia’s iconic grasslands. The Nature Conservancy is working closely with Ovis XXI’s wool producers to provide scientific expertise and monitoring to ranchers, while Patagonia’s purchase agreement encourages ranchers to raise and graze their sheep in a way that supports the long-term health of the region.
Patagonia quickly came to realize that simply specifying their wool be organic didn’t take into account grazing practices, and overgrazing can lead to erosion and desertification, leaving the land useless for both ranching and supporting wildlife. So, much like the company did for their Salmon Jerky, Patagonia instead created an entire new supply chain in support of the sustainable raw materials.
Patagonia itself does not buy the raw wool that is eventually turned into the base layers and socks we all love to wear. To get around this issue, the company had to stipulate that all suppliers and sub-suppliers specify nothing from now on but sustainable merino wool from Patagonia.
Starting this fall, every single merino base layer style by Patagonia, including all merino socks, will be made with wool sustainably sourced from the grasslands of Patagonia. This high-quality merino is fully traceable back to ranches using the Grassland Regeneration and Sustainability Standard (GRASS), which includes conservation goals and land management protocols agreed upon by The Nature Conservancy and Ovis XXI.
Patagonia may have laid the foundation for a sustainable Argentine wool sourcing program but is hoping additional outdoor brands and other partners will soon jump on board.