Frank Discussions: Jenna Johnson, Head of Patagonia
Interview recorded January 13, 2021
In this installment of Frank Discussions, Frank is joined by Jenna Johnson, Head of Patagonia.
During their conversation, Frank and Jenna drill down into working in a purpose-driven organization, and how that purpose informs business decision-making at every level. Patagonia’s main purpose is to be part of the climate crisis solution, and they work to make sure that purpose is at the core of their business. Their purpose statement, “We’re in business to save our home planet” seems to express the relationship of business and purpose quite simply. From innovations in material development to connecting with community on social media, the “business activists” at Patagonia are constantly making decisions about how to use their work to help save the planet.
Frank and Jenna also address the topic of social inequity and Patagonia’s approach to the problem. While the first instinct, when faced with a problem of this magnitude, may be to jump into action, Jenna asserts that this particular issue is so deeply rooted that it first requires doing the very intentional work of listening, talking, and feeling before any specific action can begin. Patagonia has instituted listening sessions and working groups to do just that and is deeply committed to what Jenna refers to as the “lifelong work” of ensuring Patagonia is an anti-racist organization.
The duo also discuss how Jenna’s experience in Foster’s Executive MBA program gave her critical business skills and showed her how to implement those learned skills and blend them with intuition. Having a background in the outdoor industry and smaller companies, the Exec MBA program gave Jenna an understanding of working in larger organizations, like Boeing, Starbucks, and Microsoft, and how the concepts she learned in the program can scale.
And since a conversation with Jenna would not seem right without a little talk about rock climbing (she’s a 5.12 climber, avid and accomplished), Frank asks her about lessons she’s learned from climbing that are applicable in business.
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