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Working On The Green Agenda

December 06, 1990|BRENNAN CHASE

Patagonia Public Affairs Director Kevin Sweeney was ruminating recently about his company's staunch environmentalism. Patagonia's green agenda, he said, helps attract and keep quality employees and makes people proud to work for the company. "So many institutions in our society have broken down," Sweeney said. "People need to belong to something."

Patagonia's ambitious recycling effort symbolizes the outlook of many of the company's 425 local employees. "To the people who work here, it's an important part of who we are and what we want," said Paul Tebbel, who oversees Patagonia's environmental donations. "It's what we do in our houses and it's what we want to do here."

For those who want to do even more there is Team Hedgehog, a coterie of Patagonia employees dedicated to environmental beneficence. Seven months old, the group is 20 members strong and growing.

Last summer, the Hedgehogs devoted a Saturday to sorting recyclable plastic waste at Patagonia's distribution center. Another weekend they collected litter from local beaches. With the company's blessing and gratitude, a group of Hedgehogs spent part of one workday preparing mailings to more than 1,500 companies, asking them to stop sending Patagonia their product catalogues.

More projects are in the works, including trail maintenance on Anacapa Island, tree planting in Sequoia National Forest and public speaking appearances by environmentalists.

"I think, to the company, the Hedgehogs represents what Patagonia wants--employees who are free-thinking and empowered to do what they feel is necessary to improve and further their lives," said Tim Sweeney, a Hedgehog charter member and Environmental Resources Coordinator of Lost Arrow Corp., Patagonia's parent company. "I know that's pretty heady-sounding, but that really is kind of the corporate philosophy."

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