SXSW – South by Southwest

March 14, 2023 – 11:07 am

Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, was one of the keynote speakers at SXSW 2023 (Credit: Giovana Oréfice)

Just before Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert took the stage, dozens of photographers were already waiting for his arrival. If this were to be taken as an indication of the importance of the session, Ryan would certainly be ahead of the other speakers at the event. Also, of all the speakers so far, I’ve only seen two that required police officers with bomb-sniffing dogs in the audience: Ryan and Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s vice president of parks and experiences.

Ryan began his speech by telling the story of when he had a powerful epiphany while climbing Mt. He commented that this is a unique and almost inexplicable moment. It’s as if everything in your life boils down to those magical minutes. A “mind wonder” feeling, like your mind just floats away, just marveling at it all.

I can say that I too felt a certain amount of epiphany right there in the main hall at SXSW. I was able to witness a business leader adopt a posture and speech that was as conscious as it was effective, oriented towards the values ​​and beliefs that I believe in and want to take on more and more in my life.

In his speech, Ryan stated that we, as humans, have created an unprecedented climate and environmental crisis. And that this is not something that nature imposed on us – on the contrary. This is something we created. It is a threat to our existence as humans. A threat to everything we value, including the natural world. A problem big enough and complicated enough to solve.

One of the most powerful insights Ryan shared with the Ballroom D audience was adjusting to our perception of ourselves as agents of change when we decide to buy clothes. To see ourselves as effective owners of what we will buy, and not just as mere fickle consumers. Understanding yourself as an owner means having the idea that by purchasing an item you commit to that decision for the rest of your life. That’s why you should always exercise this sense of ownership over everything you consume. Recognize, respect and even celebrate the things you already have.

And concluded: “and if you have items from Patagonia that you no longer use, we help you find other people who want to use them”.

Ryan shared that as a child in Cocoa Beach, Florida, he learned the same thing he teaches my children today: You have to clean up your own mess. They are the individuals who command companies, institutions and, mostly, governments. But they must stop hiding behind these entities and act like citizens who are truly committed to the whole.

“I’m proud to be a for-profit company working in an industry that needs to radically change,” he said. The feeling I get from this speech, and from everything Ryan has said in his participation at Southby, is that he feels privileged to be working in one of the most influential industries of all, because this is an opportunity to make a real difference, and with the full support of the founders. brand. “We face many challenges at Patagonia, but convincing the founders that this is the right way to do something is not one of them,” Ryan admitted.

Ryan went on to say that there is a narrative built around many of the stories we tell. And the prevailing narrative in America is that if you have more money, you are more successful, and what that actually implies is that you are more valuable.

But the bottom line is that in almost every crisis we face as humans today, business plays a major role as the protagonist. He believes that business leaders will do the right thing, but only when they have exhausted all other options. And that it must happen as soon as possible because we have lost the right to pessimism, to not believe that something can be done, that it is no longer possible to solve the problems we created ourselves. We must reverse these wrong beliefs patiently, but once and for all.

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