We like to refer to Aisle as “the Patagonia of Period Products”. This aspirational comparison references our longtime leadership in the natural menstrual health and equity space (since 1993 - woot!) as well as the distinguishing fact that impact - rather than financial profit - has always been our primary motivator. Plus, as social entrepreneurs and outdoor enthusiasts, Patagonia is iconic for its quality and sincere commitment to social wellbeing and environmental protection. Fun fact: Patagonia and Aisle (then Lunapads) both became B Corps in the same year - 2012!
As I wrote about Patagonia’s Founder Yvon Chouinard in my book, The Greater Good: Social Entrepreneurship for Everyday People Who Want to Change the World, another endearing fact about him is that he started out as a craftsperson, making climbing gear to support his desire to explore his beloved wilderness. Rather than seeking to ‘exploit’ an opportunity or ‘market gap’, turning this passion into a business was a decision made to help others have the same enjoyment of the outdoors.
It is exactly this type of passion that has always motivated me, Aisle co-founder Suzanne Siemens, and the Aisle team to strive to make safe, sustainable products that support people who menstruate to have better experiences of their cycles, and by extension their bodies overall. In the language of the book, Chouinard is an ‘everyday person’ - someone who started without business skills or ambition - who was simply following their own curiosity and using their ingenuity to innovate, rather than being motivated by financial ambition.
I cannot relate to this more strongly. When I first started making Lunapads menstrual pads and period underwear, it was to solve for my own needs: to free myself from monthly rashes and allergic reactions. What prompted me to commercialize them - at a time well before reusable menstrual products were socially accepted in the mainstream - was to share the amazing feeling of liberation that using and washing them gave me.
Chouinard’s recent decision to essentially gift his $3 Billion company’s shares to fight climate change is a seismic move that flies in the face of traditional capitalist business values. A far more normative strategy would have been to sell the company, pocket as much income as he and his other shareholders were able to, and then do some kind of charitable ‘give back’.
At a time in the world where wealth disparity has never been more radical and grossly unfair, Chouinard’s generosity is glaring and unparalleled. As one observer mused, what might it be like if Amazon.com Founder Jeff Bezos were to commit even a small fraction of his wealth towards preserving his company’s critically-threatened namesake?
Not only is this a big move in terms of creating impact, it’s a stunning example of someone who is truly leading with their values versus their pocketbook. Instead of “going public,” you could say we’re “going purpose,” he wrote in a simple, deeply personal statement about his decision to transfer all of the company's stock into a trust and non-profit dedicated to fighting climate change.
It's our sincere hope that his groundbreaking example shines a light on what's not only possible, but moreover what our times demand of leaders: hyper-wealthy entrepreneurs need to ask themselves what value their money will have in a world without clean air, or sufficient food or water.
As for the rest of us, let’s think even more critically about how we vote with our dollars. Shop B Corps and other businesses that are working to create change, and build a more just and equitable economy.