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Patagonia’s proactive response to BPA fallout helps establish trust

September 8, 2009

Patagonia bottleOn September 4, Patagonia officially announced they were terminating all co-branding and co-marketing efforts with SIGG, Inc., after recent news reports found that a Bisphenol A (BPA) epoxy coating was used in most aluminum SIGG bottles manufactured prior to August 2008.

The reason for the termination was because SIGG assured Patagonia that the liners of their bottles did not contain BPA, which is a chemical that Patagonia, as a company, states it does not support the use of in any consumer products.

Patagonia announced it is no longer selling any SIGG bottles in its stores or through either its catalog or on-line distribution channels. Additionally, Patagonia is accepting returns of any SIGG bottle that was purchased through Patagonia for a full customer refund. Customers can bring their Patagonia-labeled SIGG bottles to either the nearest Patagonia store, or can return it through the mail.

Unfortunately for Patagonia, a print advertisement showing Patagonia’s founder and owner, Yvon Chouinard, holding a SIGG bottle will appear in an upcoming issue of Backpacker Magazine, which had already gone to print when the report about the BPA in the liners appeared. However, I think that Patagonia’s proactive and honest approach to addressing the issue – very publicly – will help temper any fallout that may ensue.

In fact, Patagonia’s announcement on Facebook has been met with appreciation for their quick reaction to the BPA-SIGG announcement with users saying things about Patagonia such as, “nice to see a company that takes action instead of looking the other way…” and “this is why I remain loyal to Patagonia…”

In today’s world where globalization and cost rule supply chains, consumers, more than ever, depend on companies to keep them safe from these types of health hazards. And although Patagonia was not able to do so in this case, its quick, efficient response will largely help the company save face amongst its customer base.

Traditionally, the fallout from this type of recall is far more steep for the manufacturer, or in this case SIGG. If you think back to the Mattel toy recall from Wal-Mart in 2007 Mattel bore the brunt of the blame, and definitely suffered long-term financial consequences as a result. The effect on Wal-Mart wasn’t as dramatic, but again, customers expect that when they take a product off the shelves, it is safe for normal use.

In an ideal world, consumers would never need to worry about hazardous products making their way onto store shelves, but today’s globalization and demanding shareholders are severely squeezing supply chains, putting consumers more at risk than ever for faulty product purchases. This is why it is more important than ever for companies to establish trust with their customers, and to ensure them they have the customers’ best interests, and not just the bottom line, as the number one priority, just as Patagonia has demonstrated this week.

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