In a world where profit often takes precedence over environmental and social responsibility, Hult professor Hap Klopp still believes that businesses can change the world. As the co-founder of The North Face, Hap has not only built a successful brand but also shaped an ethos that centers around sustainability, innovation, and the triple bottom line.
Hap spoke to the student-led podcast Voices of Hult about his journey. In this article, we round up the key points from Hap’s conversation and his vision for the future.
Sustainability and wilderness exploration: A catalyst for change
The North Face, now a global leader in outdoor apparel and equipment, had humble beginnings. Hap Klopp founded the company in the 1960s, drawing inspiration from his personal experiences in the wilderness. It was during these adventures that he developed a deep appreciation for the environment and a belief that businesses could play a pivotal role in facilitating wilderness exploration while ensuring sustainability.
Innovations that changed the game
One of the early breakthroughs for The North Face was the use of lightweight parachute fabric and aluminum tent poles. This innovation allowed backpackers to reduce their load by a staggering 50%, enabling them to venture deeper into nature. Hap understood that by reducing the weight of backpacks, more people would have the opportunity to experience the wonders of the wilderness, fostering a deeper connection with nature and ultimately driving the mission of The North Face.
The triple bottom line: Environment, society, and profits
While many businesses focus solely on profits, Hap Klopp saw a bigger picture. He believed that the environment and society were just as important as financial success. This approach, known as the triple bottom line, positioned The North Face as a company with a conscience. Critics may have labeled them as “tree huggers,” but The North Face embraced this identity, showcasing their commitment to making a positive impact on the world.
Spreading the message with humor
To further spread its environmental message, The North Face introduced an annual “Ice Nine Award.” This award was given to the most environmentally destructive organization, named after a book where a substance converts all water to ice. By using humor, The North Face was able to engage its audience and raise awareness about the importance of preserving the environment. This unique approach resonated with people and allowed the brand to connect with a wider audience.
Klopp believed that brands were like annuities, outliving individual products.
Building a strong Brand: Consistency and clear values
Hap Klopp understood the importance of building a strong brand that would stand the test of time. He believed that brands were like annuities, outliving individual products. To achieve this, The North Face focused on consistency and clear values. Quality, disruption, and the triple bottom line became the guiding principles that shaped the brand. By staying true to these values, The North Face not only built a loyal customer base but also established itself as a trusted authority in the outdoor industry.
Cultivating a culture of storytelling
As The North Face grew rapidly, Hap Klopp recognized the need to align new employees with the company’s culture. He achieved this through storytelling. By sharing core principles, such as lifetime warranties, Hap ensured that every employee understood the values and mission of The North Face. This emphasis on storytelling not only fostered a sense of belonging but also created a strong bond between employees and the brand.
Collaboration over competition
Hap Klopp firmly believed in “enlarging the pie” rather than “slicing the pie.” Rather than viewing competitors as adversaries, he saw the value in collaboration and innovation. The North Face prioritized working together with others in the industry, leading to advancements and mutual growth. Instead of resorting to lawsuits, Hap emphasized the importance of focusing on innovation, ultimately benefitting both the company and the outdoor community as a whole.
Embracing disruption and fostering optimism
Looking towards the future, Hap Klopp advocates embracing disruption and transcending negative news. He emphasizes the power of nature’s positivity and the importance of solutions over problems. By shifting our focus from the challenges we face to the possibilities that lie ahead, we can cultivate a mindset of optimism. Hap’s vision for the future is one in which businesses, individuals, and society as a whole come together to create a better world.
By shifting our focus from the challenges we face to the possibilities that lie ahead, we can cultivate a mindset of optimism.
Hap Klopp’s journey with The North Face is a testament to the transformative power of business. By embracing sustainability, innovation, and the triple bottom line, The North Face has not only succeeded as a brand but also made a lasting impact on the world. Hap’s philosophy of business serves as an inspiration for future generations, encouraging us to think beyond profits and prioritize the well-being of the environment and society.
Listen to Hap in conversation with Voices of Hult on Spotify
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