These are tough times for money. Like the rest of us, money is having a rough go in an age in which everything is obscured in the fog of politics, virtue-signaling, and hidden agendas. The upshot is that no matter our political sympathies or predilections, now more than ever, the only way through that fog is to follow the money. Case in point:
Many of you are aware of Patagonia, of course, the clothier and outfitter for outdoor recreation. You won’t find Patagonia describing itself as such on its website, however. But you will find Patagonia describing itself like this:
We’re in business to save our home planet … From supporting youth fighting against oil drilling to suing the president, we take action on the most pressing environmental issues facing our world.
Translation: We make shit. And we make a hell of a lot of money selling that shit. But that’s not really why we’re here. We’re here to use the money we make selling the shit we make to be political agitators and to save the planet.
I, for one, would feel better about Patagonia if the company would deign to be so forthright. But no. We’re supposed to take Patagonia’s ostensible reverence for the planet on its face and to heart. And we’re certainly not supposed to read deeply, to think critically, or to connect dots when reading Patagonia’s faux-conservationist claptrap. Another case in point:
In a recent statement, the company said this, in part:
Patagonia is transitioning away from adding additional logos to our products … Adding an additional non-removable logo reduces the life span of a garment … Perfectly good gear ends up forgotten in the closet—or worse, gets tossed in the trash. In 2018 alone, 11.3 million tons of textiles ended up in landfills, and we’re not okay being a part of that … When we made this decision, we accepted that it might cost us some business.
Nothing to see here, right? The fact that Patagonia will stop adding additional logos to its products — and that it will accept the corresponding lack of revenue — means it’s putting its money where its integrity is, right? Maybe.
My Spidey Sense starts tingling when anyone combines virtue-signaling with guilt-shaming like Patagonia does later in the same statement:
But we hope you’ll see this shift for what it is: another of our ongoing efforts to support a healthy planet—and a call to action. By joining us in extending the life of the gear you wear and use, you’re making a statement about your own commitment to sustainability.
For what it is. I love that. Translation: You’re good people, right? You still want our stuff, right? You care about the planet and sustainability, just like we do, right? Heck, yes. And we ask you: what kind of reckless, reprehensible, irresponsible person would suggest otherwise?
We don’t know how many waves Patagonia thought its statement might make. Our guess is they’d have been happy to settle for a few minor ripples. But as it turns out, the story was covered in Fast Company. When it was, at risk of making a fabric pun, there was a new wrinkle added:
If you still want a personalized Patagonia vest, you can always hit up a third-party supplier to embroider your gear.
Got that? Patagonia will still make all the products you and all your planet-loving pals might ever want. And the company will be perfectly happy to have any additional logos that anybody with the money to pay for said products may want. But Patagonia won’t be putting the logos on its products itself because the company and all its virtuous employees, after all, are clean, responsible, forthright, and stalwart stewards of the planet. Right.
The moral of this story is that there’s a thin and deliberately blurred line between integrity and virtue-signaling. We’re all free to spend our money on whatever we choose. And the companies on which we spend our money are free to do whatever it is they’re going to do with the money we spend on them. But if those companies are blowing smoke up our kilts to compel us to spend more of our money on them, that’s nothing like integrity.
If we care about our money, where it goes, and what’s done with it (to say nothing of the truth of any matter), we have to follow the money more closely all the time.