My Role Models (Final) Edit

According to, a role model is an individual or an organization that is looked up to or revered by someone else. A role model is what someone aspires to be, either in the present or the future. For my personal role models, I have chosen an individual and an organization that best embodies the characteristics I most admire -- dedication, aspiration for success and social responsibility.

Leonardo DiCaprio Edit


At first glance, DiCaprio as a role model seems to be an unorthodox choice. For most people, he is known for his many near misses with an Academy Award, and his long string of Victoria’s Secret Angel ex-girlfriends. However, what really makes me admire him, as someone who is too young to comprehend the “Titanic” craze, is his long dedicated efforts toward environmental protection.

DiCaprio, an influential name in the film industry, has used his resources and success to produce and star in multiple provocative environmental documentaries. His recent notable works include the visually stunning, enticingly intimate, and inspiring documentary titled, “The Ivory Game”. It spotlights on the hard work and commitment of African conservationists, who are all risking their lives to battle heavily armed, paramilitary crime syndicates that slaughter endangered elephants, profiting off their tusks. DiCaprio inspires me because he doesn’t merely sit on his fortune and recognition for personal gain, instead, he directs them toward socially responsible causes. Throughout the years, through his charity, he has donated more than 20 million USD to various charities, with the single largest gift being 15.6 million USD. Using his fame and media attention, he shines light on some environmental and humanitarian issues in our society that are often neglected. He sits on the board of many NGOs, such as the World Wildlife Fund, Global Green USA, and International Fund for Animal Welfare. When DiCaprio finally won his first Academy Award in 2016, he dedicated his acceptance speech not to his personal struggles, but instead used the opportunity to remind the public on global warming’s detrimental effects, and how we must do act upon it.

But, there are many conservationists and environmental activists in the world, who all have the heart, and puts in the effort, so why is DiCaprio such a standout individual despite his fame as an actor? Well, as a business student, I truly appreciate how he uses the market and the government to aid his philanthropy causes. Nowadays, the government’s seemingly laissez-faire attitude towards our planet, sacrificing the environment for economic gain, has estranged many activists. There is a large divide between many environmental activists and the business-political world. It saddens me when many activists and their organizations refuse corporate gifts, and view businesses and administrations as the enemy to their cause. As a result, many activists and their organizations’ efforts are unproductive and futile, while polarizing public opinion and alienating potential large donors. Whether we chose to believe it or not, we do live in a society built upon the private enterprise system, and resources are allocated through the market and valued in currency. And DiCaprio, in a sense, is a master of the system. In 2013 alone, he raised more than 40 million USD in a single auction for his charities. DiCaprio, as a public figure, is an expert in media and public relations. Through his films, he created a very positive image for those dedicating their lives to activism, while spreading their message in a compassionate way. DiCaprio is able to use his fame and celebrity to attract many other voices who are resourceful and influential, such as the British Royal Family, as seen in his documentary, and the documentary’s co-producer, founder of Microsoft Paul Allen. DiCaprio also works closely with government administrations to raise awareness and act upon environmental issues, because, at the end of the day, it is the government that has the power to pass legislations that will truly determine our future and the fate of our planet.  As seen in “The Ivory Game” , he and his NGOs have successfully lobbied for the US, Chinese, and Hong Kong, three largest consumers of wild animal products, to ban all sales of ivory, saving the elephant species from poachers and potential buyers.

I have always been passionate about NGO work. Ever since I was in 6th grade, I’ve volunteered and worked for various NGOs founded by foreigners in Beijing. They all viewed the city with magnanimous pity, scrutinizing the city’s battles with its polarized wealth division and pollution. They all viewed their mission as some sort of religious pilgrimage, and spoke on and on about how they left capitalism and corporate America to focus on doing something truly good for the society. They ranted on about the Chinese government as we were picking up trash by hand on the Great Wall, just to have the millions of tourists litter the same on the next day, rinse and repeat. Most volunteer organizers used their own savings to fund the programs, which weren’t ever enough because they were young, passionate, and expensively college and graduate school educated. Since then, I’ve always thought to myself, if we were ever open to forge alliances with local businesses, instead of viewing them as the problem, we could be much more impactful with our efforts and be better funded to execute the programs we spent months planning. If we were open to converse with the local administration, perhaps they could regulate the amount of personal belongings a tourist could bring onto the Great Wall, greatly reducing the amount of trash left behind, therefore truly solving the the root of the problem instead of just appeasing its symptoms. I think DiCaprio is a great role model for what successful activism and NGO work could be. I believe if more activists and NGOs learned from DiCaprio’s finance and PR savvy ways, then the future of our planet will be so much brighter.

Patagonia Edit


Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973. The company started as a small workshop for Chouinard to produce quality climbing gear for his fellow climbers. From there, Chouinard grew the company into a retail giant, with a revenue of around 600 million USD in 2013.

I love Patagonia not only because their fuzzy pullovers are the only things that can prevent me from dying of hypothermia at a freezing, rainy regatta, but also because of its dedication to the company mission. On the company website’s front page, Patagonia proudly labels itself as “The Activist Company”. Patagonia’s mission statement is the following, “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”. One thing Patagonia strongly emphasizes is its core value to be socially and environmentally responsible. In business, we talk about companies having a responsibility for four sectors; the company has to be responsible to its consumers, to its employees, to its stockholders, and to the greater society as a whole. Patagonia excels at fulfilling those responsibilities, in an environmentally friendly way.

Patagonia is responsible to its consumers by providing the most environmentally friendly, and humanitarian products that it can. The company has been organic since 1998, is against animal cruelty by using 100% recycled down, and all of its wool can be traced. Patagonia has developed multiple recycled textiles, the most famous being the Synchilla. Patagonia is a leading voice in the retail industry for human rights, fighting human trafficking and usage sweatshops in its supply chain. Patagonia audits its supply chain regularly, and faces its potential problems with total transparency by making the report public online. Patagonia is known for its responsibility to its employees worldwide, ranking 29th in the 50 Best Workplaces for Parents. Patagonia provides onsite daycare to its employees, and encourages its employees to stay true to the company’s active, outdoor roots. Patagonia promotes a healthy work-life balance, allowing its employees to use work hours on participation of outdoor sports, such as surfing and rock climbing. Patagonia has established the Employee Internship Program, a program where employees can take a paid year off to participate in environmental and social activism. Patagonia has great corporate culture programs like the Bike-to-Work-Week, where for every mile its employees biked, Patagonia pledges $1 to a local bike advocacy group. In order to stay true to its activism, Patagonia, despite its rapid growth and large revenue, has remained a private company, with the founder Chouinard being the major shareholder. Without needing to respond to financial investors, Patagonia and its founder started the One Percent for the Planet initiative. Since 1985, Patagonia has donated 1% of total sales, or 10% of profit, whichever is larger, to environmental causes and has encourage other companies to do the same. The initiative now has more than 1200 members in more 48 countries, and in 2012, the group has donated more than 100 million USD. Patagonia has identified its growth and consequently its public consumption as one of the major hurdles in its environmentally responsible mission. On previous Black Friday sales, the company has came up with the slogan, “Don’t Buy this Jacket!” in an effort to reduce emission, but unfortunately to the opposite effect. This year, Patagonia has gained media attention for its new Black Friday strategy-- the company donated the 10 million USD of all its global and online Black Friday sales. Patagonia, on top of being responsible to its profit motives, views its responsibility to the environment and the general public as its greatest responsibility. Patagonia is a certified B Corp firm, meaning the company, while remaining a for-profit corporation, places its environmental and social responsibilities as the forefront of its mission. Patagonia is a LEED Gold certified company, meaning it meets the highest industry standard for sustainable architecture. Patagonia has various campaigns on environmental causes, such as its most recent campaign against ecosystem damaging lower power output dams. Patagonia provides sponsorships and grants to various sports and activist programs, as well as providing free lectures and workshops on how to best be environmentally responsible. Patagonia is also a founding member of multiple environmentally focused corporate alliances, such as The Conservation Alliance and the Fair Labor Association.

Patagonia is a great role model because it is an example to companies worldwide, where economic profit and environmental and social responsibility is not a trade off. Patagonia is able to achieve great growth and profit margins while remaining true to its core values, maintaining its business ethics and integrity. It is a great role model for how activism and business can marry, and best contribute to the growth and sustainability of our society.

References Edit