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CEO Rose Marcario, the woman driving Patagonia, to be (even more) radical

Stashed in: Women, CEOs, Etsy

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She made Patagonia a B corp in 2011.

Marcario says that from her initial conversation with Chouinard she was awed both by his commitment to his causes and trueness to himself and by how that was reflected in his company. This was something she aspired to—was in fact searching for. He is, she says, someone who “has exemplified living the examined life.” Chouinard, for his part, says Marcario is the best leader his company has ever seen—including himself and the seven CEOs who followed him before her.

When Marcario arrived as CFO in June 2008, she launched a rigorous review of Patagonia’s supply chains—looking for ways to streamline production and save costs by identifying waste, both financial and environmental. Instead of shipping items in a bulky box, for instance, Patagonia switched to mailing stuff in recyclable bags. She also pushed the company to cut back on its expanding selection of leisure wear and return the focus to its core outdoor products. (It was decided that men’s capri pants, for example, were a mistake.) And she devoted a lot of resources to improving the company’s e-commerce capabilities. Patagonia had historically grown sales carefully and methodically. The company owns only 32 stores in North America and 36 more worldwide. (The rest of its retail sales come from its many partnerships with other retailers). But since Marcario’s arrival e-commerce sales have skyrocketed—though the company, which remains closely held, declines to disclose detailed figures.

It quickly became clear to Chouinard—who with his family owns 100% of Patagonia—that he had found someone special in Marcario. She moved into the job of COO and then, in 2013, succeeded Casey Sheahan as CEO. She has continued to deliver results. Patagonia is on track to have the most profitable year in its history in 2015, according to the company, with expected sales reaching $750 million. All told, the compound annual growth rate since the year after Marcario joined as CFO has been 14%, and profits have more than tripled since her arrival.

If Patagonia were a larger company, Marcario’s track record would surely merit a spot as one of the Most Powerful Women in Business ranked in this issue. The executives on our list typically run operations with billions in sales. But Marcario earns recognition for both her success and the outsize influence the Patagonia brand holds in the business world—as well as her role in extending that sway.

Her approach represents a middle way in which business success doesn’t mean ignoring your community or leaving the planet worse off than you found it. “Rose is really a whole person, a well-integrated person,” says Etsy’s Chad Dickerson, a fellow socially conscious CEO (and fellow adoptive parent). She’s “not just a business person—she brings a full perspective.” Chouinard praises her in more radical terms: “She understands the need for revolution.”

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