Doing Good Works at CotopaxiSeptember 1, 2020
Brand and Impact
Annie Agle has the best job in the world.
As the Director of Brand and Impact at Cotopaxi, Annie’s work ensures that the Cotopaxi brand supports their mission, not the other way around. Everyone she works with, from the hourly workers to the founder of the company to the grant organizations she speaks with, is aligned to this principle.
Cotopaxi’s mission is to use their business to make a positive impact. “Profits never come at the loss of people and planet,” Annie explains. Instead, Cotopaxi’s product is crafted responsibly and every dollar they make is tied to sustainably alleviating poverty.
“Oh yeah,” Annie adds, almost an afterthought. “We sell outdoor gear.”
Keeping It Scrappy
From day one, Cotopaxi has focused on prioritizing giving over shareholders. Even the basic structure of the company as a Certified B Corporation, an alternative to a standard LLC, requires a commitment to a list of environmental and social factors with every decision. Giving, simply put, is a core part of their business model.
This has several practical outcomes: 1% of the funds from every Cotopaxi purchase goes to support programs to alleviate poverty in local communities around the world through the Cotopaxi Foundation. Cotopaxi employees are also given “in-the-wild” time, spending 10% of their work time adventuring outdoors or serving their community via a skills-based volunteering initiative.
“When you support Cotopaxi,” explains Annie, “you’re also choosing to support a different, humane way of doing business. We try to treat other businesses not as competitors but collaborators.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was exactly this philosophy that allowed Cotopaxi to adapt quickly to the crisis. “We’re a startup,” Annie says. “We’re used to being humble and scrappy and pivoting quickly.”
Davis Smith, Cotopaxi’s founder and CEO, understood what needed to happen as the effects of the pandemic took shape. “Now is our time to show up,” Annie recalls him saying, “and to show up in a big way.” While other companies were scaling business back, Davis wondered how they could go even further for the local community in Utah, where their headquarters is located.
The One Utah campaign was developed and launched quickly, in partnership with the state’s basketball team, the Utah Jazz. All of the proceeds from the sales of the One Utah t-shirts went directly to local organizations best positioned to help during the pandemic, including the Utah Food Bank and Department of Workforce Services. Cotopaxi’s quick response allowed them to fundraise very quickly, with thousands of shirts sold in the first ten days of the campaign.
Cotopaxi always considers the full cycle of what they do. In addition to providing local support, they made sure that the cotton the One Utah shirts were made from was part of their Fair Trade program and they were able to do additional fundraising through the Foundation to benefit those sewing the shirts in India, one of the areas hardest hit by the pandemic.
The One Utah campaign is one of many that Cotopaxi has been behind in the last few months. They’ve implemented about 20 different fundraising campaigns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have run their course while others continue, such as standing campaigns in Latin and South America, where many of their outdoor products are created.
A Shared Human Society
It’s the community that Cotopaxi has cultivated that makes Annie appreciate her job most. “These are my people,” she says, and it means so much more than just the ones she works with directly. This includes those who design the things Cotopaxi makes, those who put them together, those who buy and treasure them, and those who make giving a priority in everything they do.
For Annie, it’s being a part of a shared human society which spans the globe that makes her work with Cotopaxi the best job in the world.