Jenna Johnson – (Jane Goodall Hopecast S2 EP16)


Full Transcript:

Jane Goodall (00:03):

People are always asking me about snakes at Gombe. We’ve all, but one of the really poisonous snakes, these are the common ones, such as spitting cobra, whose saliva can blind you, puff adders, black and green mambas, vine snakes, storms’ water cobras. And when I arrived in 1960, there was no antivenom for the storms’ water cobra. But I always believed, and I still believe that if you don’t frighten or threaten them, snakes won’t harm you. A spitting cobra once climbed up my leg then up my body and so onto a branch behind me. I used to play with a vine snake and then it was discovered that they were actually very poisonous, but they’re back fanged and this one was very friendly.

Jane Goodall (00:54):

I admit that I was scared when a water cobra sort of drifted onto my barefoot as I was walking around a rocky outcrop up to my knees in water. He seemed to look directly into my eyes as I stood, absolutely motionless. And I must say I was very relieved when the next wave gently carried him away. I lept for dry land. I met so many snakes as I traveled through the forest, including a couple of rather large pythons, but I never was in danger. I actually love snakes.

Speaker 2 (01:36):

We are all connected, all our voices matter and it’ll take all of our pooled talents and strengths to create a healthier planet.

Speaker 3 (01:44):

Our mother, our one and only hope.

Speaker 4 (01:46):

I aspire to change the world too, because of the hope she gives me.

Speaker 5 (01:49):

The earth is beautiful.

Speaker 4 (01:51):

She devoted her life to do this.

Speaker 3 (01:52):

Together we can save the world.

Speaker 5 (01:56):

Together, we can. Together, we will.

Jane Goodall (01:56):

What is your greatest reason for hope? I’m Jane Goodall and this is the Hopecast.

Jane Goodall (02:08):

Today. I get to speak with someone who shares with me a love for the outdoors and hope for the future of our planet, Jenna Johnson. Jenna is the head of Patagonia’s apparel and equipment business. Every day, she works to advance Patagonia’s mission to help people to develop and maintain a love for the outdoors and to work together to protect our one and only home planet earth. Jenna believes that even the most technical gear can be made with sensitivity to the environment and to the people, animals, and plants that inhabit it. I’m so looking forward to our discussion about corporate citizenship and our shared passion for sustainability. I hope you enjoy this hopeful conversation with Jenna Johnson.

Jane Goodall (03:10):

Jenna, I am very excited that you are joining us today, and I really want to welcome you to this edition of Hopecast.

Jenna Johnson (03:20):

Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here and really looking forward to the conversation.

Jane Goodall (03:25):

What was it way back when that really triggered your passion for the outdoors and to trying to help the environment?

Jenna Johnson (03:35):

I was really fortunate to spend a lot of time growing up outdoors. I moved around every couple of years when I was young, but I always had big open spaces to go into as I was growing up and places that I could allow my imagination, that beautiful imaginary world that we all live in when we’re young. I would go wander around in these wild spaces and live in that imaginary world. But it was really when I went to university, I went to university in Tucson, Arizona at the University of Arizona. And I met a group of rock climbers who ended up becoming some very good friends of mine. And they introduced me to rock climbing every weekend. We’d go up to Mount Lemmon and other places, local climbing areas and we’d go rock climbing. Jane, have you ever rock climbed?

Jane Goodall (04:26):

No, it’s not my thing at all.

Jenna Johnson (04:33):

When you find that place or that thing, and you have that feeling like you’re home, that’s kind of what happened to me when I discovered rock climbing. I fell so deeply in love with rock climbing. I loved the movement of climbing over rock, how your body moves. I loved how you have to pay such close attention to the environment that you’re in, understanding the texture and the nooks and crannies of each of the rocks and the roots in order to be able to get up them. I really love the climbing community. And what climbing did for me is it sent me traveling around the world. So I went traveling to go rock climbing, but ultimately rock climbing guided me to some of the most gorgeous landscapes on this planet. And through that, I really built this deep appreciation and relationship with our natural and wild spaces.

Jenna Johnson (05:30):

And so I would say that, that’s how it all kind of began for me. And then when I found my way to Patagonia, where I work at now, and I’ve been working at Patagonia for over a decade now. I started to understand the power and the relationship between taking action and standing up for these places that I had fallen in love with, and that I was recreating in. And that became a whole new space for me to really think about how to live in this world and how to interact as a responsible being living on this planet.

Jane Goodall (06:09):

So do you still rock climb, do your children rock climb?

Jenna Johnson (06:12):

I do, our whole family rock climbs. It is still a very, very big part of our world. My husband climbs very regularly and I have a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old daughter. And both of them are just so natural and so comfortable. And anytime I see them getting antsy or frustrated, we go outside and we play and everything falls into place and big smiles and they’re back to their happy self again.

Jane Goodall (06:44):

Yeah. Would you ever go on those what I think are utterly, utterly crazy rock climbing where there’s no rope or anything, and people are on a sort of sheer rock face? I mean, to me, it’s crazy.

Jenna Johnson (06:57):

Yeah. It’s a little like anything in this world. When you do it on a regular basis, you understand more about the boundaries, the risks that you’re taking. So I don’t climb a ton in terms of high altitude and high risk. I have two children and my risk tolerance is a little different. But I actually really appreciate and respect being able to move very freely and comfortably over rock, which is what a lot of the climbers who are extremely skilled and who are doing some of those rock climbs that look extreme to some of us who don’t do that on a normal basis. But for them, it’s a really beautiful, almost a form of meditation and a very strong connection to the earth and to the rock as they move over it.

Jane Goodall (07:49):

Well, I suppose in a way I have done rock climbing because a lot of Gombe, although it’s forest, but there are quite sheer cliffs and it’s not quite like you’re rock climbing, but there are rocks and you do have to climb up. And actually one of the really most stupid things I ever, ever did was to try and climb up the rocks by a waterfall. And suddenly it got really slimy and slippery and there I was, I couldn’t go down and I couldn’t go up. I don’t know how long I stayed there. Now that was ages ago when I first got to Gombe. I don’t remember what I did, but it was a very scary feeling. If I go up, I’ll slip. If I go down, I’ll slip. What do I do? Have you ever been in that situation?

Jenna Johnson (08:35):

I have been in that situation and I find those situations, although so intense in the moment to be some of the most memorable, you remember that moment very well. I can tell. And you learn from that moment. And I actually think those are some of the things that I love the most about climbing is that sometimes you do get scared and your mind starts to run really fast on fear, and you have to find a way to calm yourself and to continue to move forward, take one step after another. And in many ways, those are the skills of life, right? The things that we’re dealing with on a daily basis can feel really intense. The world sometimes feels really scary to me. There’s a lot going on that feels uncertain and scary. And yet we have to remain focused and we have to remain resolved and you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other in order to try to make some progress and move forward. So I assume you either went up or you went down.

Jane Goodall (09:41):

I think I tried to go sideways actually. If I remember right, and it was ages. This was 1960. So I don’t really remember, but I think I went sideways away from the slippery slimy stuff. So there you were climbing rocks when you were young and being out in nature and wide-open spaces and what actually directed you to Patagonia? That wasn’t your first job.

Jenna Johnson (10:07):

No, that wasn’t my first job. My entire career has been in the outdoor industry. So this love of rock climbing has really led me to work within the outdoor industry. I’ve worked for some really great companies that essentially build product to help keep people safe and having fun when they’re in the outdoors. So I feel very fortunate to work in a culture, in a community building products for the things that I personally love too. It’s a great gift to be able to do that together. So I worked in the outdoor industry, but have always felt really passionately about conservation, about protecting these environments that I love so deeply. I am really passionate about protecting biodiversity. So Patagonia had always been on my radar as an important company that was doing really fantastic work and a role opened that was a really perfect fit. They called me. And I was interested in coming and joining the team here at Patagonia.

Jenna Johnson (11:08):

And so it’s been so awesome to begin to stretch my love of environments and my love of recreation and use the opportunity that businesses have to do business different and to do business with a very genuine love of the environment out in front of us. That is what we make all decisions around. And so it’s been a great learning journey for me to be able to sit in a space of running and building and developing a business that is really centered on the idea. We changed our mission a little while back to just very sharply and succinctly pronounce that we are in business to save our home planet. And that is what we as a employee community, as an organization, as an unconventional business in this world, that is what we are trying to do each and every day that we come into work.

Jane Goodall (12:22):

Way back when somebody gave me a Patagonia jacket. So I started reading up about Patagonia and the way they were making everything from recycled plastic. So I remember thinking how great it would be to actually talk to the people who are responsible for this company because they were ahead of their time. Back then, and I was able to meet Yvon Chouinard and I was invited to give a talk, I guess it was about Chimpanzees at the Patagonia office and that’s how it all began. And although the people listening can’t see, I’m actually wearing a Patagonia jacket. You can see the Jane Goodall Institute logo on it. And we’ve had this relationship with Patagonia for so many years now because of the ethic of the company.

Jenna Johnson (13:18):

The purpose of our business is very much what we make decisions on. But I also think it’s important that people understand that we are running, fortunately, a very successful and profitable business as well. And I think it goes to the heart of what’s happening in the world today, specifically with customers, consumers, community members, however, we want to define them. In that, they are demanding that companies actually take responsibility for the impact that we all naturally have in running a business and manufacturing goods. Although a lot of the work and the decisions that we do are moral imperatives because we believe so passionately and we want to innovate and be leaders and help show others what good decision making looks like, what responsible decision looks like. It’s also good for business because it’s exactly what customers want. Customers are voting with their dollars today.

Jenna Johnson (14:28):

And they’re increasingly expecting companies to really contribute to problem-solving for some of these greatest challenges that are ahead of us. And so, although people always speak about Patagonia and how much they appreciate that we lead with that moral imperative. I do like to remind people that there is business to be done in that. We’re not a nonprofit organization. And so when other businesses look to us, they don’t have to turn into a nonprofit organization. They can be a very profitable organization by making the right decisions and choosing the right way to lead and grow and develop their business because that is very symbiotic with what people are looking for today from businesses and companies.

Jane Goodall (15:20):

Yeah. And the only reason that you can develop in that way is because of growing awareness in the general public. So compared with one of the high market clothes manufacturers, how does Patagonia fit in? The prices that you have to charge, are they competitive?

Jenna Johnson (15:41):

They are competitive in a marketplace that is committed to quality. So by quality, I first and foremost mean durable product that will last and perform. I think the fact that Jane that you’re wearing a jacket that you’ve had for some time and that you were first introduced to the brand through product is how most people get introduced to us. And I take that first interaction through a very product-specific interaction. Somebody needs something they’re going out into the outdoors. They need to be protected. They need performance out of their product. And then I want to exceed their expectations so that they love that product so much. They want to hold onto it for their entire lifetime, hopefully. And then at the end, somebody is excited to get that product and you hand it down. It almost becomes like an heirloom that gets passed down and around.

Jenna Johnson (16:44):

And that is the foundation of our business at Patagonia. And then from there, you can start to, like you said, educate, inspire, bring people into the movement, help them to understand what actions they can be taking to stand up for the things that they care about and the things that are really important for us to work together and collaborate on. You can earn people’s trust and their loyalty with you in order for them to then take those steps further as you start to bring them further into what we kind of call the journey of an activist.

Jane Goodall (17:22):

Well, it’s fascinating as you’ve been talking, I’m thinking that you are up against companies who create products specifically not to last so that they can sell more. So if you are creating products that will last for a lifetime, how do you get the edge on these companies that produce rubbish?

Jenna Johnson (17:44):

It goes to education like you mentioned before in all of this. And we’re taking a lot of different tactics right now to help people grapple with the fact that consumption and overconsumption is really at the heart of this climate crisis that we are in, that manufacturing new products is very impactful to this planet. And as a company, we want to minimize how much new product manufacturing we’re doing. And so that means making it very easy for people to repair their goods. We have the largest repair facility in North America where we do a ton of repairs so that people can keep their product for a lot longer. And we’ve started a worn wear program where we will take back product and then resell it. So if you want to buy used instead of new, either for price point or for environmental reasons, we’ve made that really easy and seamless.

Jenna Johnson (18:44):

And you’re seeing the younger generation find that to be the preferred way of finding their products today because they understand they get that they can still get a really fantastic product used. And many times a really cool story of where it came from, what its lineage is, so to speak. And they aren’t part of supporting new product manufacturing. And so we have to set up all these different ways in order to make it easy for people and interesting and inspiring for people to shift their behavior. And shifting behavior is the most difficult thing you can ask people to do. But we’re seeing a lot of momentum in this area and the more we can continue to educate, continue to let people know, and provide solutions that are easy for people to engage in. That is the direction that we have to go in order to get ourselves out of this climate predicament that we’re in.

Jenna Johnson (19:47):

So for all those companies that aren’t offering that, their customers will start to migrate to places where they can have that as they see others in their community move in that direction too. And so those who kind of are looking the other way and pretending like we don’t have a problem, they will be left behind. I’m quite confident of that. And they won’t be part of the world that we’re going to have to create in order to keep this planet livable for us.

Jane Goodall (20:17):

Overconsumption, buy and throw away, and buy and throw away. That’s something that has to stop and you are doing that. That’s one problem, but the other problem is poverty. And I think when I talk of poverty, even the garments you resell cheaper, won’t be affordable. And this is the huge problem. And I wonder if Patagonia can start thinking, well, this garment’s been through three different people, even Patagonia won’t last forever, but let’s give it one last life and make it really cheap. This problem of poverty is one that consumes an awful lot of my thinking because it’s a huge, huge problem. It’s causing environmental destruction, people cutting down trees to get more land, to grow food on and in a city buy the cheapest goods. You’re going to have to buy something that’s really cheap that you’ll have to throw away because it won’t last because you cannot afford to buy the better products. And this is a huge problem.

Jenna Johnson (21:24):

We think about it a lot on the apparel and equipment side of the business that I work in. But we also think about it a lot in the food side of the business, we have Patagonia Provisions, which looks at food and we are really thinking about how we systemically change agriculture and the way in which agriculture’s produced in order to be able to allow everyone to have healthy food. Because we see the same dynamics that you’re speaking to within the food industry as well. But on the equipment and apparel side of things, yes, that is a big part of the work that we’re doing with worn wear. And there is different price tierings as you’re speaking to, depending on how long the product has been used and what space that it’s in. But we’re also talking about a lot of other ways that we might be able to bring our prices down and allow people to have really great product.

Jenna Johnson (22:23):

It’s a very tricky situation when you have a supply chain that is expensive by nature, but there are a lot of ways that we’re investing and doing a lot of environmental work with communities, especially marginalized communities that are most affected by the climate crisis that we’re in. We’re doing a lot of work around that in environmental work and storytelling, really trying to support those communities as best we can within our product collection, but also just in the breadth of work that we do.

Jane Goodall (22:58):

You work at all with Native Americans?

Jenna Johnson (23:01):

We do. Yeah. And more so recently, over the last couple years, we’ve really recognized how much more intention we need to have in building those relationships and lifting up those voices, and allowing them to be part of our business and of our work around the environmental movement in particular.

Jane Goodall (23:26):

There’s so many huge problems to solve. And fortunately, there are more companies moving towards finding solutions. There’s an awful lot of work to do. And that’s why I really concentrate on roots and shoots because if the young people are on our side, they’re changing their parents and their grandparents all the time. And I’ll bet you, a lot of stuff that you sell to parents has been a result of their children saying, but mommy, you can’t buy that. It’s just not right. You want to go to a company like Patagonia, which does care about the environment. I think that really is happening, don’t you?

Jenna Johnson (24:06):

I absolutely do. The youth are so sharp. They are leading with heart, but they understand that they need to know the science, the facts, they’re researching. They’re being extremely conscious when they go to purchase something, whether it’s food or cars or clothing, every single decision they make, it feels so conscious. I look at them and I am so grateful for the way that they’re thinking and the way that they’re approaching it. And yet I feel so guilty for what we’re leaving them. And also so hopeful that we can prove to them that we can come together collectively, that we can get out of this over-indexing on competition that we have at the moment, especially here in the United States. It feels like we’re all in competition with each other and yet what we need right now more than anything is to come together as a collective.

Jenna Johnson (25:11):

One of the things that we spend a lot of time on is thinking about when Patagonia’s voice can be additive to a situation. And there are a lot of times in which we can be additive and it’s important that we come in and we have a loud voice and we stand up, but it’s just as important that sometimes we hang back and we support in other ways. And we let those who actually have the expertise and the experience and the background lead the conversation.

Jenna Johnson (25:42):

Patagonia doesn’t need to be the leader in every single conversation. We need to work together harmoniously and allow each other to lift up where each other’s expertise are because we certainly are not experts in every issue that we may actually care about. That’s what we’re trying to foster at the moment is those relationships with people where we can be complementary to each other and not competitive. And that even goes within our own industry with brands that may make the exact same product, it may feel like we’re competitors. And we have to get out of that space and say, what are the values and the ethics that we all believe in and how do we work collectively towards that?

Jane Goodall (26:27):

Yep. That’s so, so important. And this competitiveness, it runs through almost everything. I’m in the NGO world, competitiveness is so destructive and the environmental problems are so huge. We need one thing for sure, and that’s more companies who are on the same path as Patagonia. You can give and still succeed.

Jenna Johnson (26:56):

Exactly. Yeah. Patagonia’s been in business for almost 50 years now and I think that is what we have proven through putting people and the planet first in every single decision that you make. It is possible. And it’s actually incredibly rewarding.

Jenna Johnson (27:29):

What we’re striving to do at Patagonia is balance between the joy and the beauty and the stories that make us sit in that beautiful space of being alive on this absolutely gorgeous incredible planet. And yet being able to also have the conversations with people about the hard truth and the hard reality of the situation that we’re in. Because we care so deeply. Because we love recreating and being outdoors and breathing fresh air and walking over healthy soil and hearing sounds of all different types of species out there, that balance is really critical and stories become a foundational way in which we can do that.

Jane Goodall (28:17):

I mean, you are lucky actually, because you are selling to people who want to be outdoors, otherwise, they wouldn’t be buying your products. So you’ve got a clientele that are sort of on the right path, but you imagine some other corporations they’re not selling that kind of thing. They’re selling stuff to people who couldn’t care to a hoots about the natural world.

Jenna Johnson (28:40):

Yeah. And we are fortunate to your point that we’re speaking to people who want to get outdoors. But one of the things that I’m most grateful to you about, you have been an inspiration in my life a lot because I feel that you help the world understand the power of observation. And I think that’s what you’re speaking to too. We can go outside, that’s a good first step, but do we look, do we see, do we pay attention to the details? Do we understand the interconnectedness of all these things that are around us? Going out on a trail is great, but if you’re just charging and you have your headphones in and you’re missing everything that’s happening around you.

Jane Goodall (29:29):

Well, Jenna, I want to thank you for having engaged in such a great conversation. I know I’ve learned a lot and it’s been fun. And I love getting to know you and I look forward to meeting you in person when the pandemic allows us. So thank you so much for joining this Hopecast.

Jenna Johnson (29:48):

Oh, thank you so much, Jane. I do hope we can meet in person sometime very soon. And I hope that we get to chat again very soon, no matter what. Thank you so much for all your work.

Jane Goodall (30:16):

Let’s imagine that we’re in a forest and it’s dim and green and we are following two young chimpanzees along a trail. The little specs of sun are coming down through the canopy and dancing about on the forest floor, and big ferns are growing up at the side of the trail. In the lead is [Pom 00:30:35], an adolescent female, and she’s followed by her little brother [Prof 00:30:39], who’s about three and still slightly unsteady on his feet and the mother’s way behind us. And suddenly as they’re going along this trail, Pom stops and she stares at something ahead of her along the trail. And her hair stands out and she gives a little, hoo, aah, aah, and rushes up a tree.

Jane Goodall (31:00):

Little brother, well, maybe he doesn’t hear that sound or maybe he doesn’t know what it means, but he continues along the trail. And the closer he gets to this place, the more agitated his sister until every hair is standing on in. She has a big grin of fear on her face. And finally, she can’t bear it anymore. She rushes down the tree. She picks him up and climbs back up the tree. And there coiled up at the side of the trail was a big poisonous snake.

Jane Goodall (31:31):

Feel hopeful and inspired to act with the Jane Goodall Hopecast by subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and anywhere podcasts are found. I’m your host Jane Goodall. The Jane Goodall Hopecast is produced by the Jane Goodall Institute. Our production partner is FRQNCY Media. Michelle Khouri is our executive producer, Enna Garkusha is our producer, and Matthew Ernest Filler is our editor and sound designer. Our music is composed and performed by Ruth Mendelsohn with additional violin tracks from Angie Shear. Sound design and music composition for the Conservation chorus is by Matthew Ernest Filler.

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About Author

Scientist. Activist. Storyteller. Icon. Jane Goodall blazed the trail and changed the world. Now, she's studying new subjects – humans! This brand-new podcast will take listeners on a one-of-a-kind journey as they learn from Dr. Goodall's extraordinary life, hear from changemaking guests from every arena, and become awed by a growing movement sparked by Jane and fueled by hope. Join us as we get curious, grow compassion, and take action to build a better world for all. As we face some of the greatest challenges to humankind and the natural world, we have a unique opportunity: the power of technology to connect and share ideas. Now is the time to galvanize people around Jane’s message of hope in action and bring big thinkers together to change hearts and minds alike. The Jane Goodall Hopecast is produced by the Jane Goodall Institute by Dan DuPont, Shawn Sweeney, and Ashley Sullivan. Our production partner is FRQNCY Media. Michelle Khouri is our executive producer, Enna Garkusha is our producer, and Matthew Ernest Filler is our editor and sound designer. Our music is composed and performed by Ruth Mendelson with additional violin tracks from Angie Shyr. Sound design and music composition for the Conservation Chorus is by Matthew Ernest Filler.