Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert has discussed the company's latest efforts in supporting effective grassroots groups and civic engagement. The company is hoping others in the outdoor industry will join us in their efforts. In a statement he said:
No matter who you voted for in November, democracy scored a major victory when nearly two-thirds of eligible voters cast a ballot. Two thousand CEOs came together to say it was important for their employees to make Time To Vote. And Republican and Democratic state and local election officials from every state confirmed there was no widespread fraud. In every county across the country, there were safe, secure elections.
But instead of celebrating democracy in action, a group of lawmakers in Georgia and states across America are doing everything in their power to make it harder for their constituents to vote.
On March 25, Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia signed a new, restrictive voting-access law that limits early and absentee voting and ballot drop-box locations; piles on rigid voter ID requirements; and gives people in power the ability to challenge election results they don’t like. Governor Kemp claims the new law will shore up faith in the election system, but in reality, it will only make it harder for Georgians of all racial, socioeconomic and political stripes—especially Black voters—to elect their representatives.
As the late civil rights hero John Lewis wrote in a prescient, posthumous essay, “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.” Protecting our democracy is an all-hands-on-deck commitment that’s ongoing. Standing in solidarity with Black CEOs and business leaders, I call on fellow CEOs to join in denouncing these attacks on our democracy and to do more than make a corporate statement. The strength of our democracy depends on every vote being counted everywhere, and we must protect access to the ballot box.
Specifically, I am calling on business leaders to take three important steps to defend the right to vote for the sake of our employees and our communities.
First: Fund the activists working to challenge the recently passed laws in Georgia and support voting registration efforts—Black Voters Matter Fund, The New Georgia Project, Rise, GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, League of Women Voters, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
At Patagonia, we are making an immediate $1 million donation split equally between the Black Voters Matter Fund and The New Georgia Project. We don’t have a PAC (political action committee) at Patagonia, but if your company does, please consider suspending contributions to any politician suppressing votes from people of color.
Second: Send a letter to the senators that represent the state(s) where you conduct business, calling on them to pass the For the People Act (H.R. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA). According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the For the People Act would make it easier to vote in federal elections, end congressional gerrymandering, overhaul federal campaign finance laws, increase safeguards against foreign interference, strengthen government ethics, implement automatic voter registration and re-enfranchise felons who have served their sentences. The VRAA would provide a long-overdue response to a Supreme Court decision in 2013, which made it easier for states with a history of discriminatory voter suppression to pass laws further disenfranchising eligible voters and laid the groundwork for the Georgia law signed by Governor Kemp. As business leaders, we should use our platforms and lobbying power to advocate for federal protection and make clear that nobody—Republican or Democrat—should play politics with the right to vote.
Third: Commit to reaching out to business partners to facilitate speaking out against further state laws that would restrict voting access. From Florida to Iowa to Montana—47 states this year have introduced 361 other bills that would restrict voting rights. As we saw when the NCAA and NBA pulled games from North Carolina and major companies halted expansion plans in the state after its governor signed a bill limiting LGBTQ+ protections, businesses can have real influence in their communities. MLB has pulled the All-Star Game from Atlanta, and we need more businesses to take a stand and we can use our business networks to expand our advocacy. Opting to stay silent while the constitutional rights of voters in Georgia and across our country are being threatened is tantamount to supporting these unjust laws. Our colleagues, clients and customers won’t forget what we do in this moment.
Many of you have acknowledged that as business leaders, we must support all stakeholders and not just answer to shareholders.
Let’s show the world we mean it. Our communities and employees will have a more equitable chance to thrive when they have the ability to participate in the direction of our great country. Let’s take action together for them.