Patagonia and Columbia Sportswear Join Forces to Protect the Planet

5 min readApr 27, 2020

On Friday, Columbia Sportwear Company and Patagonia joined forces to fight climate change. Together we filed an amicus “friend of the court” brief in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s effort to roll back the Clean Power Plan.

This is the summary from the brief, click here for the full brief.

Amici curiae Patagonia Works (Patagonia) and Columbia Sportswear Company (Columbia) produce outdoor apparel, footwear, and equipment to help people access and enjoy the world’s wild places. The climate crisis threatens to disrupt the foundation upon which the outdoor recreation economy is built. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to rescind the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and replace it with the Affordable Clean Energy rule (ACE) — a rule which fails to fulfill the Agency’s statutory mandate to reduce harmful greenhouse-gas pollutants — is not only contrary to law and arbitrary and capricious; it will have significant negative impacts on the bottom line of the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy, in which amici play a leading role, and on the health and well-being of this industry’s many thousands of employees and millions of customers — real world costs that EPA has failed adequately to consider.

The urgency of climate change intensifies with every passing year. The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) — a federal program mandated by Congress to coordinate climate-change research across 13 member agencies — warns in its most recent National Climate Assessment (revised June 2019) that without substantial changes to human activity, “transformative impacts on some ecosystems will occur.” The latest report by the World Meteorological Organization (issued Nov. 25, 2019) found that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are at new record levels. And recent United Nations studies echo these warnings, finding, among other things, that human activity threatens to push one million species to extinction and is warming oceans in ways that are disrupting marine ecosystems and inundating coastal zones. The 10th Emissions Gap Report by the United Nations Environment Programme (issued Nov. 26, 2019) cautioned that even if every country fulfills its current pledges under the Paris Agreement (and many, including the United States, Brazil, and Australia, are currently not on track to do so) average temperatures by the year 2100 will still rise by 3.2°C since preindustrial times,[1] “bringing wide-ranging and destructive climate impacts.”

From the perspective of thousands of U.S. businesses that depend on a stable climate and wilderness preservation — including those, like amici, in the outdoor recreation industry — this is not an abstract concern. As this brief illustrates, the potential for economic disruption caused by climate change is already in focus and entirely predictable. These effects include:

· The destruction of natural resources critical to tourism and recreation, including through coastal erosion, ocean acidification, bleaching of coral reefs, rainforest destruction, wildlife-habitat destruction, species extinctions, wildfires, droughts, and glacial changes;

· Increased heat, dust, wildfires, and pollution resulting in lower air quality, which will force people to remain indoors; and

· Higher winter temperatures, which will impact winter sports and recreation activities, especially in low-elevation areas.

Climate change will have direct and meaningful negative effects on the outdoor recreation economy and the 7.6 million jobs it supports. The destruction of natural resources will mean fewer visitors to our National Parks, wilderness areas, and federal and state lands, spending less money in the nearby communities that support them. Extreme temperatures, wildfires, and smoky skies will keep more people indoors for more days of the year. And warming winters will mean fewer ski days across the United States.

Amici agree with petitioners that ACE is arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law. Rather than heed the alarm sounded by scientists around the world, EPA has elected to rescind the CPP and to replace it with ACE — a rule that unlawfully adopts an overly restrictive interpretation of EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to address greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, one of the nation’s largest greenhouse-gas-emitting sectors. The CAA is the tool that Congress gave EPA to address the nation’s most pressing air pollution problem. That primary purpose must inform EPA’s and the Court’s interpretation of the statute. And the gravity of the problem requires EPA, in making that interpretation, to consider the actual consequences of its approach, including a serious reckoning of the costs of proposing only minimalist measures that are woefully inadequate to confront the true proportions of the problem. Amici have a strong interest in ensuring these real world consequences, including the costs to American businesses, are understood so that the Court can make a fully informed decision about how the statute should be construed.


Amici curiae Patagonia and Columbia play a leading role in the rapidly growing outdoor recreation economy. Patagonia was founded in 1973 and has a 40-year history of environmental advocacy. It is now a California benefit corporation that is in business to save our home planet. Patagonia is headquartered in Ventura, California, with worldwide operations, and has 34 stores throughout the United States and employs thousands of people all over the country. Columbia was founded in Portland, Oregon, as a small regional hat company in 1938. Columbia has since grown to be a multi-brand leader in the outdoor industry, selling products in more than 90 countries. Columbia employs thousands in the United States, where it has operated 144 retail stores and two major distribution centers.

Patagonia and Columbia are in business to support their customers’ passion to explore, recreate in, and preserve the great outdoors. As climate change destroys natural resources, erodes coast lines, exacerbates air pollution, and wreaks havoc on our water, amici’s customers may be prevented from engaging in the many outdoor activities — hiking, camping, climbing, skiing, running, cycling, boating, hunting, and fishing — that they love. Put simply, soaring temperatures, extreme weather events, reduced winter snowpack, smoke-filled skies from wildfires, degraded rivers and lakes and diminished wildlife populations will reduce access to outdoor recreation opportunities, which will in turn impact demand for the goods and services the outdoor recreation industry provides. Amici, therefore, have a direct economic interest in how EPA responds to the climate crisis.

Amici also have a longstanding institutional interest in protecting and preserving the natural environment. They have directly contributed tens of millions of dollars to support conservation of wilderness worldwide. In 2012, Patagonia became the first California-registered benefit corporation to enshrine its mission as an advocate for conservation into its articles of incorporation. And both amici have committed to reducing their own impacts on the environment. To that end, they have employed advanced sustainability practices to enhance the mix of energy sources they use, to improve the energy efficiency of their manufacturing processes, and to reduce the potential climate impact of the products they sell.

Patagonia has committed to eliminate or mitigate all of its carbon emissions by 2025, by improving energy efficiency, switching to renewable sources of energy, and employing carbon-caption technology. Columbia has set ambitious targets to reduce its carbon footprint to align with the Paris Climate Agreement. This includes implementing large-scale energy efficiency measures at our headquarters, distribution centers, and retail stores, as well as working with manufacturing partners do the same. These goals will be attainable only if they are supported by a robust and affordable renewable-energy economy. EPA’s rescission of the CPP makes that reality far less likely.