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Patagonia Wet Suit Proves Sustainability, Profits Not Incompatible

A wet suit for surfers, made not from conventional, petroleum-based neoprene but from a natural rubber derived from a desert shrub, is one way Patagonia is trying to nudge along a sport that has not always been environmentally conscious despite its roots in the natural world.

Patagonia executives are also convinced that the many years of development and testing they have supported have resulted in a revolutionary material that will wind up not only in wet suits but also in everyday items like sneakers and yoga mats.

But if they have their way, only a few of those products will bear the Patagonia name. Instead of holding the manufacturer of the rubber, Yulex, to a years-long exclusive contract, Patagonia is encouraging its competitors to use the product, hoping to see its use grow and drive down the price.

Patagonia’s promotion of Yulex is the latest example of its unusual commitment to advancing sustainability, sometimes at the expense of its bottom line.

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