After many years of giving money to activists, we realized that if we could share profits, we could also supply time and muscle. And many Patagonia employees, inspired by the work of the grassroots activists we supported or furious about the ruin of their favorite wild places, were in a fighting mood. So, in 1993, we created the Patagonia Employee Internship Program.
Through the program, employees can leave their jobs to work for the environmental group of their choice. Patagonia continues to pay their salaries and benefits while they’re gone, and environmental groups worldwide get them for free. To date, more than 750 employees have taken part in the program.
In 2008, the Internship Committee artfully stretched its budget to accommodate no fewer than 150 employees, who volunteered on both individual and group internships. Community agriculture received a lot of help, as employees from our Salt Lake City Outlet planted and harvested with Wasatch Community Gardens, Patagonia Chicago with City Farm, and Patagonia Pasadena with EarthWorks Community Farm. Rivers and bays also benefited: Employees from our Westport store helped Save the Sound clean up around Connecticut’s Saugatuck River, Freeport Outlet employees monitored water quality with Maine’s Friends of Casco Bay, and NYC SoHo employees worked to protect and restore the ecosystem of New York Harbor and the Hudson with The River Project. Elsewhere, Patagonia interns worked on projects in Armenia, Australia and South Korea, the Nevada wilderness, Yosemite National Park and Utah backcountry. They volunteered on behalf of plovers and dugongs, turtles and trees, bicycle transportation and voter registration.
Over the years, a handful of employees have left the company permanently to devote all of their time to environmental work. And that’s okay with us. We consider it a success when an employee chooses to pursue his or her environmental passions full-time.
The Internship Program provides employees with great opportunities and free service to environmental groups. It also benefits the larger Patagonia culture. Volunteers return with a powerful sense of purpose and accomplishment that inspires their colleagues and encourages other employees to work on behalf of the natural world.