Lululemon founder Chip Wilson gifts $100M to help preserve B.C.’s nature

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson gifts $100M to help preserve B.C.'s nature
Lululemon founder Chip Wilson and his wife Summer Wilson laugh while speaking after announcing a $100 million donation to preserve and protect B.C.'s natural spaces through their Wilson 5 Foundation, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

Lululemon Athletica Inc. founder and billionaire Chip Wilson is donating $100 million to the B.C. Parks Foundation to help protect and enhance the province’s nature.

The donation, which was announced Thursday at an event held in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, will be made through the Wilson 5 Foundation.

The commitment is part of the B.C. Parks Foundation’s launch of 25×25, a multi-year campaign to protect 25 per cent of land and waters, in partnership with Indigenous people. The foundation started in 2018 with the goal of improving and expanding the province’s parks system.

The donation is being put to work right away in three ecosystems, the Falling Creek Sanctuary, Teit’s Sanctuary and Bourguiba Springs.

Wilson previously made a $4 million donation to protect the coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem and earlier this year made a $100 million commitment to medical research on facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy.

The announcement comes a day after Patagonia founder and billionaire Yvon Chouinard said he is giving away the company to a trust and non-profit that will use its profit to tackle climate change.

In an open letter, Chouinard said 100 per cent of the company’s voting stock will be transferred to the Patagonia Purpose Trust and 100 per cent of the non-voting stock will go to the Holdfast Collective, with the funding coming from Patagonia.

“We needed to find a way to put more money into fighting the (climate) crisis while keeping the company’s values intact,” he wrote in the letter.

“Truth be told, there were no good options available. So, we created our own.”

While businesses and business leaders continue to be called out for greenwashing — when organizations spend time and money on creating an environmentally-conscious image rather than taking tangible steps to minimize environmental impact or improve the climate crisis — Leanne Keddie, professor at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University, doesn’t believe that’s what this is.

“For Chip Wilson, I think his donation to protect pristine habitat is critical and helps to continue both the conversation and action on the climate crisis and preserving biodiversity,” said Keddie.

“In Patagonia’s case, I think this is really consistent with who they are as an organization and strong recognition of the crisis we are in. They’ve shown that you can create innovative solutions to difficult problems.”

Keddie said she hopes moves like this will push others in their financial position to do the same thing.

“I think when creative solutions like this come out and we’re discussing them, it shines a light on our human ingenuity. I find that very inspiring and it does put the pressure on other billionaires to speak to what their plans are,” she said.

“Particularly in light of the massive inequality we are seeing today, rising inflation, and the pressures everyday people are feeling, I think those with billions in wealth have to think seriously about the impact that wealth is going to have. I’m optimistic these won’t be the last big announcements we see.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2022.

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