Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario Visits Simmons on Earth Day

April 30, 2015

Rose Marcario at Simmons

Rose Marcario shared personal stories about her career path, how she arrived at Patagonia, and how Patagonia measures sustainability.

When asked what made her decide to come speak at Simmons School of Management, Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia replied, “It was a relentless pursuit! I thought, wow, these gals have really rallied their network. After speaking with them on the phone, I was so inspired by them. So I said I would come here.” Marcario was referring to three full-time MBA students, Jennifer Eno-Ballbach, Ayumi Oman and Bing Peng, who reached out to her in October 2014 for an interview. The students enrolled in the Leading Individuals and Groups course and had an assignment to conduct research on a woman leader. They chose Marcario for various reasons and decided they wanted to try to speak with her personally. With the help of LinkedIn, the students used the power of their network to reach out to Marcario directly and through other 3rd degree connections. She accepted the invitation for the interview, which led to her visit to Simmons.

Finding a career and a place that "feels right"

Marcario comes from an Italian immigrant family where she was greatly influenced by her mother who taught her, “You can do anything.” That confidence has helped her achieve success not just financially, but by having her personal values align with her company’s values. She spoke about how to “trust your instinct and your gut and find the places that feel comfortable” to work in. Marcario shared personal stories about her career path and how she arrived at Patagonia. A turning point in her career was when she was working for another company years ago and was in New York City at a roadshow, presenting things to investors, and became frustrated with a homeless man crossing the street and making her wait while sitting in her limousine. She described how she saw her reflection in the window of the car and thought, “What is happening to me?” The fact that she was getting frustrated with him bothered her because her mother had a mental illness and the homeless man could have been her mother. This made her question what success really was. She asked, “Is it just chasing money, or chasing titles…what is wealth?” After taking some time off and spending time in India for two years, Marcario returned to join Patagonia after meeting the founder, Yvon Chouinard, and being impressed with how genuine he was and realizing that the values of Patagonia aligned with hers.

A responsibility to do the right thing

When asked about how Patagonia measures sustainability, Marcario shared an example about when Patagonia made the switch to using solely organic cotton in 1996. She said they did it “because it was the right thing to do, not because we thought we would get a return. But what has happened is that the brand has become beloved for doing the right thing and because of that we got a return in customer loyalty and brand loyalty. We are authentic environmentalists.” She also spoke about how much responsibility she believes businesses hold to do the right thing because they ultimately have more stakeholders than just financial ones. She added, “If we continue to consume at the rate we are consuming, it’s very short sighted. We don’t need to buy as much; we don’t need to consume as much; we need to be citizens, not consumers.” Patagonia recognizes that they do harm to the environmental by making product, but try to find ways to minimize their impact and share those best practices with others in the industry. 

Just a few days before her visit to Simmons, Marcario was honored as a “Champion of Change” at The White House for Patagonia’s working families policies. When asked to reflect on her visit to The White House, she said, “It’s important to have a world where the human part of business is connected. Businesses need to step up and do more.” Patagonia has had an in-house childcare facility for 31 years and is a role model for practices around working families policies. This discussion was relative to her overriding theme of just being good to people and leading by example, which she said she would consider her mantra. It was a great theme for an Earth Day chat.

SOM Dean Deyton interviews Rose Marcario Simmons MBA Students with Rose Marcario

Photo on left: Dean Patricia Deyton led the discussion with Rose Marcario. [photo: Jennifer Eno-Ballbach]

Photo on right: Rose Marcario with MBA students Jennifer Eno-Ballbach, Ayumi Oman, and Bing Peng, who first reach out to her for an interview for the Leading Individuals and Groups course. [photo: Caroline White]

Article written by: Jennifer Eno-Ballbach '16SM