Do Good & Do Well: Cotopaxi

I’ve always liked telling the masses (read “anyone who will listen to my rambling”) about good things and good people. From my teens and through my twenties, my wardrobe consisted mostly of band t-shirts, which I eagerly wore in hopes of meeting either someone that had heard of the band, or, better yet, someone who hadn’t heard of the band. If asked, I would gladly regale the poor unsuspecting sap with the biography, lineup, discography, and any pertinent trivia they may need to also become a fan of said band. Now, well into my thirties, my shirt collection consists of far more national park shirts than snot-nosed punk bands, but I am still all for grabbing a hold of your proverbial ear and telling you all about why I am rocking a Joshua Tree shirt.

As such, I’ve decided to try to use Bristlecone to help evangelize on behalf of brands and organizations that I feel put people over profit. On that note, I’d like to pontificate for a while about Cotopaxi, a fine example of companies that give a shit.

Cotopaxi incorporated as a B Corp, or certified benefit corporation, which means they were literally designed to do good in the world. As they do well, others do well. It’s a win-win situation if I’ve ever seen one. It was even the first corporation to be formed as a benefit corporation BEFORE getting venture funding. That means it is actually backed by people who were willing to give money away before they were profitable. Hot damn.

Giving permeates everything Cotopaxi is, from employees banding together for volunteer work to the company itself giving their employees 10% of their time to spend in the outdoors. If there’s a way to make your employees brand ambassadors, that’s it.

On top of their insane corporate grant program (which they are exceptionally transparent about), and their phenomenal employee perks, they utilize ethical sourcing in their products and their labor. As their company was built with “the dual purpose of inspiring adventure and alleviating poverty,” it should come as no surprise that their current Kickstarter project, the Libre sweater, is the epitome of this.

The Libre sweater in its natural habitat: outside.

Hot on the heels of their Kusa collection, also launched on Kickstarter, comes the Libre, a sweater with a timeless look made of llama wool, an equally timeless material. It seems to have struck a chord with outdoors enthusiasts, as it has raised over $380,000 at the time of publishing.

Director of Apparel Cheri Sanguinetti was adventuring away in South America when she discovered the Bolivian culture surrounding the llama. Revered as a source of food, clothes, and even religious practices, the Bolivian llama farmers she met weren’t looking to produce the most product in the cheapest way possible. Utilizing the fibers from llama fur, which is referred to as “Bolivian cashmere,” Cheri designed the Libre, a unisex sweater. Combining good looks and honest-to-goodness functionality, the Libre sweater is a piece of clothing that any adventurer can get behind.

I had the opportunity to talk with Ms. Sanguinetti on her thought process behind the Libre sweater. Above all else, the focus was on an element of humanity, “It’s about material sourcing fusion of product design and development coupled with opportunities to improve local livelihoods.”As she continued, we’re trying to reduce labor migration due to lack of market for their traditional products, something we’re trying to do by souring this llama fleece directly from these rural farmers is to create a pathway to market that enables them to keep their traditional livelihood if they wish to stay rather than move to the bigger cities to become miners.”

With their efforts on just the Libre sweater, Cotopaxi has ensured a livelihood for an enduring tradition for countless Bolivian farmers. Along with their grant programs and ethical sourcing and ethical labor for their other product lines, Cotopaxi is proof that companies can do well by doing good.


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