The present paper provides an analysis of the mission and vision statements of two companies – Patagonia Outdoor Clothing and Columbia Sportswear.
What is Mission Statement?
A mission statement is like a guideline for an organization and its members. It guides and directs the employees of an organization towards the individual, collective and ultimate goal of an organization. It is supposed to provide them strategic leadership, direction and also supposed to motivate all employees alike (Lewis, Goodman, Fandt, & Michlitsch, 2006). This statement summarises the vision of any organization or company in a few sentences, what the company wishes to establish and be in the future as a whole, as well as seeks to inspire every functional and operational unit into action to contribute to that big picture. Thus a mission statement in order to be effective needs to be inspiring hence non-restrictive, for an extremely specific and restrictive statement will not leave any room for an employee to feel inspired in their own true way (Fitzroy & Herbert, 2007), thus defeat the purpose as a whole.
Any typical and effective mission statement should have the following characteristics:
- What products or services it offers i.e. what it does (Formulation of Strategy 2 1 2 41)
- The values that matter to the particular organization or company (Formulation of Strategy 2 1 2 41)
Characteristics of a good mission statement (Formulation of Strategy 2 1 2 41)
Keeping these yardsticks in mind we proceed to the analysis of the mission statements of both Patagonia Outdoor Clothing and Columbia Sportswear.
Mission Statements of Patagonia Outdoor Clothing and Columbia Sportswear
- Patagonia Outdoor Clothing’s Mission Statement - Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis (Our Reason for Being, 2014).
- Columbia Sportswear’s Mission Statement - Design and deliver authentic, outdoor, high-value products for active consumers of all ages (COLUMBIA HISTORY).
Similarities & Differences
Even a cursory glance of both companies’ names and mission statements will help one realize that both Patagonia Outdoor Clothing and Columbia Sportswear, are apparel firms dealing with outdoor gears. Thus, both companies share the same market space and look to cater to similar, if not the same, customer or client base.
Apart from this very basic and obvious similarity, the other parallel which can be drawn between both the apparel firms, based on their mission statements is that of their commitment to deliver the best products to their customers. Both Patagonia Outdoor Clothing and Columbia stress on this aspect of their mission as a company supplying outdoor clothing and gears. Patagonia Outdoor Clothing claims to strive to build the “best product” (Our Reason for Being, 2014) while Columbia Sportswear goes into further elaboration and claim to “Design and deliver authentic, outdoor, high-value products for active consumers of all ages” (COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR HISTORY). Thus, it becomes clear that both companies share the same market, client base and commitment to perfection.
However, even within their similarities lie certain differences, which become apparent upon close inspection of the mission statements.
While both companies work within the circles of outdoor clothing and gears and also commit to provide the best and most high-value products to their customers, Patagonia Outdoor Clothing’s mission statement explicitly highlights its commitment to manufacture and provide products that are environmentally sound and friendly. They claim it to be their mission to produce goods that do not cause any unwarranted harm on its way and provide further impetus to their environment friendly outlook by mentioning the willingness to utilize business to redress the ‘environment crisis’ prevalent in today’s world. Later on we will see how they implement these commitments and how far they are successful in that endeavour.
On the other hand, in the mission statement of Columbia Sportswear we see a preoccupation with quality of the products and the client base. Unlike that of Patagonia Outdoor Clothing, here we do not see any mention of their commitment to the society or environment at large, i.e. there is no mention of the big picture or its social responsibility stated as part of its mission. Nonetheless, it is very clear from their statement that they attach utmost importance to providing their clients with quality products and also that they cater to customers of all ages. This particular information i.e. their exact target consumer age or group, is not stated in Patagonia Outdoor Clothing’s statement.
Mission Statements Analysis
Mission Statement - Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis (Our Reason for Being, 2014)
- Visionary – The primary function of a mission statement as mentioned above is to provide a vision of the future, and here Patagonia Outdoor Clothing scores well as it briefly and successfully mentions all its goals including the kind of product they want to provide (best in quality), the kind of production process they want to utilize (without intentional harm), and the ultimate purpose of their business i.e. utilizing business to mitigate the environmental crisis. By the last two aspects, the company has successfully hinted their inclination to benefit the society and therefore a commitment to their social responsibility.
- Broad, Realistic, Short and Concise as well as Easy to Understand – The mission statement of Patagonia Outdoor Clothing meets all these criteria head on.
- Motivational – The commitment to making harm-free products and employing the business world for benefitting the environment are all innovative, noble and motivational goals, and since the statement does not restrict the goals with specific methods, it allows the employees to interpret the goals according to their own self, and therefore remain motivated and ambitious.
Thus, Patagonia Outdoor Clothing’s statement seems to be a typical example of an effective mission statement which successfully states the companies, ideals, reason for being and motivates the employees. The only criterion where it seems lacking is hinting at the kinds of products it offers and for whom exactly. Nonetheless, this is not much of an impediment as the name of the company itself states its primary function. Thus, the mission statement performs its function well and is able to play its part in the strategic decisions of the company well. The last claim can be substantiated with examples from the company’s own site, annual reports and Corporate Social Responsibility where a detailed account is provided of the myriad ways in which the company ensures it operates with maximum responsibility and accountability. Not only does the company have a social responsibility manager to keep a tab on the work culture and quality of each of its factories, it is also associated with a number of environmental and social justice oriented programs like Joint Initiative on Corporate Accountability and Workers Rights (JO-IN) and the Fair Factory Clearinghouse (FFC) – a database that enables the managing and tracking of social and environmental data (CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY , 2014). Other examples of how the mission statement has influenced the strategy of the company’s work includes the innovations of a new kind of piton that doesn’t damage rocks when used (Carus, 2012 ), usage of organic cotton, recycled and recyclable polyester, and hemp in their clothes (CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY , 2014), along with 100% traceable down whereby it is ensured that no live plucking and/or force feeding takes place, and standards of animal welfare are not flouted (www.patagonia.com/us/home), and finally, the fact that it is a Benefit corporation (B-Corp) and California’s first (Carus, 2012 ).
Thus, not only does Patagonia Outdoor Clothing have a good Mission statement, it is actually working towards the vision specified in the statement, quite effectively and efficiently.
Mission Statement - Design and deliver authentic, outdoor, high-value products for active consumers of all ages (COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR HISTORY)
- Visionary – The Mission statement of the company states explicitly its mission and vision to continually provide the best kinds of products for all consumers alike. Thus, the purpose is quite clear and evident in the statement, however, unlike Patagonia’s statement, here we do not see any commitment to the bigger picture i.e. the commitment of the company to do anything or serve outside the commercial realm. There is no mention of the company’s obligation to benefit the society in any other way or a mention of its social responsibilities.
- Broad, Realistic, Short and Concise as well as Easy to Understand – The mission statement of Columbia Sportswear seems to meet all these criteria just as efficiently as Patagonia Outdoor Clothing.
- Motivational – The statement serves its purpose of motivating the company employees and keeping them rooted to its chief business goal, but there is only so much you can do in that field, so the employee does not derive any further motivation for doing anything bigger than his immediate job or work within the company as an apparel firm.
The mission statement of Columbia Sportswear, though explicitly specifies the basic and fundamental purpose of the company it does not make mention of any other role the firm can or does play in the society. Thus, it becomes somewhat restrictive in its nature; hence it is not as motivating, visionary and thus, effective as the mission statement of Patagonia Outdoor Clothing’s. This restrictive nature of the statement needs to be altered in a manner whereby, the larger vision of the company comes across, which not only includes the commercial nature of the company’s role, but also highlights the values of the company, which makes it a company truly worthy of the pride of all those involved. Columbia Sportswear has more to it than just its business aspect; commendable though its commitment to providing “customers of all ages” the best and most authentic products, it also has other aspects to it as a part of its corporate social responsibility which includes responsible sourcing of materials, giving back to the community in form of grants to deserving parties working for the environment, reducing their own environmental impact and promoting worker welfare by participating in programs like ‘HER project’ (CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY).
As such the present vision of the company is related to only the quality of products and servicing clients, irrespective of their age. Basing on these two factors, the company seems to toe the mission statement’s objective quite closely, as the company operates on an international scale and has seen an increase in its popularity in a number of markets, especially the Asian markets, solely on the basis of their products (Columbia Sportswear Company Form 10-K Annual Report, 2014). But there is definitely more to the company, as an active contributor to the society and community at large, these aspects needs to be worked into the mission statement. Accomplishing this will go a long way in making the employees feel more enthusiastic about their work, value the role they play both in the business and community, as such a mission statement will be motivating them for their work with a greater purpose.
Out of the two companies Columbia Sportswear’s mission statement seems to need more work than that of Patagonia Outdoor Clothing’s. As mentioned above Columbia Sportswear’s mission statement falls somewhat short in explicitly mentioning the values and bigger picture of the company. Through the given statement the employees or anyone else is allowed only a partial glance into the values of the company, as nothing of its obligation to society at large is mentioned in the same. But on a closer inspection, it is clear that the company does play an active role in the betterment of the society.
As a part of its corporate, social and environmental responsibility program the company works for the betterment of the society in the following ways:
- Corporate responsibility – Participation of Several Columbia Sportswear factories in HER project over the last two years whereby thousands of female workers have been benefited with health education, resulting in 60% increase in prenatal medical visits among workers and 41% increase in awareness about STD symptoms.
- Social responsibility – Regular monitoring of each manufacturing unit to ensure their adherence to the ILO norms and Standards of Manufacturing Practices (SMP); affiliation with Fair Labour association thus working to ensure better livelihood of factory workers, capacity building programs etc.
- Environmental responsibility – Keeping and complying with a restricted substance list that aims to protect all workers and users from the harmful effects of certain substances; utilizing the Higg Index (an industry-wide tool helping companies evaluate material types, processes, products and facilities basing on certain environmental indicators) thus committing to measuring and improving the environmental performance of their supply chain .
These are some of the major ways Columbia Sportswear respond to the issue of their social responsibility, along with also giving away grants to deserving organisations which work for the betterment of society themselves. By performing these activities the company actively contributes to social and environmental betterment. Especially noteworthy is their effort to secure the welfare of their own workers, which are highlighted through their participation in programs like HER project, monitoring of manufacturing units in countries notorious for flouting of human rights rules etc. Just as the saying goes ‘Charity begins at home’, social responsibility of the corporate bodies too begins with the welfare of their own workers, and here Columbia Sportswear strives to achieve perfection.
SWOT Analysis of Columbia Sportswear
- Known as the largest American ski apparel brand, the company has built its reputation and legacy over the last 76yrs. Today it operates in more than 72 countries worldwide and is witnessing a growth in popularity in such potential markets as that of Asia (Columbia Sportswear Company Form 10-K Annual Report, 2014).
- Complete commitment to providing products of top notch quality to all its users (COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR HISTORY).
- Commitment to inventing the brand image and products with the needs of time and the market (Columbia Sportswear Company Form 10-K Annual Report, 2014).
- Inclination to benefit the society at large through various social, environmental and corporate responsibility programs (CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY , 2014).
- Though one of the most popular outdoor apparel and products brand in America, the company is still relatively less known in other parts of the world and consequently accounts for a moderate section of the international market (Columbia Sportswear Company Form 10-K Annual Report, 2014).
- Despite not being too popular the company still has not put in the effort required in advertising themselves or properly mentioning their mission and vision to their workers or customers.
- E-commerce is a booming industry in many parts of the world already and it is witnessing a sudden growth in the gigantic Asian market, here the brand has immense opportunity of expanding its business and gaining visibility and popularity through e-retailing of select and specialized merchandise.
- For those nations where the brand is still lagging behind others in popularity and visibility it can increase its penetration through tie-ups with well-known names.
- Lack of popularity outside US means it will have to put in substantial effort for building its popularity and name, thus, effective global penetration will take more time and effort and the brand will see stiff competition in the meantime from other known brands.
- The apparel industry is a highly competitive one; here there are various companies with more means and influence than Columbia Sportswear operating in the same space with better or similar products (Columbia Sportswear Company Form 10-K Annual Report, 2014) thus, brand loyalty is more often than not absent in this industry.
Nonetheless, the threats and weaknesses thus observed can easily be mended. The weaknesses and threats generating from the lack of popularity and visibility can be effectively checked by investing in a proper marketing and advertising campaign, which for a company of Columbia Sportswear stature should not be too hard or expensive, though it will take some time to bear fruit. To catch the attention of more consumers from the untapped markets of Asia the company will have to also promote those specialized products which will suit their needs specially. Finally, the issue of brand loyalty can be taken care of by continuing to uphold their promise to provide the best and most authentic products, for a consumer will only come back to a brand which will satisfy and win over the trust of her, with continued quality product and service.
Thus, though there are certain definite lags in the mission statement of the company, and it does indeed face some potent threats and weaknesses, it can remedy the situation effectively with a little bit of effort and time, as mentioned above.
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