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The powerful messages of Patagonia’s upcycling movement to industry

29 January 2021

Patagonia’s re-commerce and upcycling strategies feel light years ahead of the rest of the B2C market. And their commitment to sustainability and execution of strategies should be a leading example for manufacturing firms wanting not only to survive 2021, but to finally break free from the Matrix and prosper in the realities of today.

We’ve studied these B2C gurus up close and broken our learnings in three. With that said, let’s delve right in.

  1. One action can change the world 

In 2011, Patagonia shocked the world with an unapologetic ad against Black Friday consumerism that read “Don’t Buy This Jacket” – a rallying cry to wake the world to the easing environmental footprints through lesser consumption. Behind the campaign lay a strong message: For consumers to buy only what they neededto repair what breaks, and re-use or recycle everything else. 

Patagonia makes headlines around Black Friday

This campaign was the beginning of the upcycling movement, and a sign of things to come from this anti-materialistic brand, who has since flipped one of the busiest days on the retail calendar into a vehicle for climate awareness and philanthropy around the world.  

  1. Upcycling is not a dirty word for industry

Fast forward to late 2019, when Patagonia launched ReCrafted – a collection of one-of-a-kind pieces crafted from leftover fabric, retailing at a higher cost than standard collections. For good reason, considering the main obstacle to upcycling garments is that it’s time-consuming and labour intensive.  

Generally speaking, apparel supply chains are designed to maximise efficiency: brands will design a style, select the fabric and then manufacture the items at scale on a factory line. Upcycling apparel, on the other hand, means working with leftover fabrics. Something, Patagonia’s audience readily understood and were willing to pay for. This turned what had initially set out to be an experiment into a resounding success, with the brand selling tens of thousands of products otherwise destined for landfill.  

Patagonia's 'Recrafted' campaign

  1. Pre-owned doesn’t necessarily mean waste

In 2020, Patagonia made another major shift by including a “Shop Used” button, where customers could buy used gear directly through Patagonia’s main website. The initiativewhich has been rolled out under the campaign umbrella “Buy Less. Demand More”, encourages customers to purchase less newand demand more from products that are made sustainably – using recycled materials, regenerative organic cotton, and fair-trade production practices. Another notable move includes a feature that allows shoppers to compare new products with used alternatives on the website, a design feature aligning closely with the principles of the Circular Economy.

Patagonia's 'Buy less, demand more' campaign

Patagonia’s initiatives have already unveiled that it’s possible for industry to make upcycling a sustainable part of their business model, and in doing so, reverse the devastating impact of a non-circular ecosystem. 

An idea worth moving beyond fashion

Industrialists need to understand – this isn’t just an issue happening in the fashion industry, that consumers must pay the price for. This is a problem and culture created by industry, impacting businesses too.  

Take industrial spare parts. To date, Machine Compare has identified over £5 billion worth of unused, obsolete and surplus stock sitting on the shelves of numerous manufacturing companies in the packaging, pharmaceutical, bottling, food processing and agriculture sector. These are parts that have been oversold to buyers, and should be put back into the market – something, our new, first-of-its-kind Marketplace launched in March 2021 is set out to do. Targeted at selling these parts to a global audience of compliance verified buyers, we aim to close the loop of the circular ecosystem.

A second chance for spare parts

At Machine Compare, circularity underpins our entire business model. The cycle begins when manufacturers first purchase spare parts with the intention that these will be used. But often, they aren’t, becoming obsolete or surplus to requirement.  

Now, rather than having these spare parts sent to landfill – a typical route manufacturers take – these parts are turned into capital by listing the stock on our Marketplace, with sellers enjoying several other benefits. Upon spare parts reaching end-of-life, our recycling partners will repurpose these parts. On top of this, we make sure all carbon emitted throughout the supply chain is displaced, supporting the conservation, reforestation and carbon powerhouses that need it most.  

At Machine Compare, we believe it’s possible for businesses of all sizes to upcycle products as part of their supply chain and create a lucrative new revenue stream in the process.  In a world where companies are consumed by growth and profitability figures, Patagonia’s environmental priorities are a refreshing reminder that doing good is good for business. A belief we share through our mission to close the loop of spare parts purchasing, and our hope to elevate the role that conscious capitalism plays in creating the truly sustainable brands of tomorrow.