Clothing giant champions sustainable design with first CSR report
VF Corporation, the firm behind the North Face and Timberland clothing brands, has released its first Sustainability Report, setting new company-wide targets and detailing the green initiatives it plans to scale-up.
The new report follows a two-year program which saw VF build a global sustainability infrastructure from scratch. The company's entire portfolio, which also includes Wrangler, Lee and Vans, are collaborating through the ‘One VF’ strategy; to generate 'meaningful innovation' around sustainable fashion.
"At VF, sustainability is a key business platform that contributes to our global growth and helps us manage our operations responsibly," said VF president Eric Wiseman. "Our brands are working as 'One VF' to foster meaningful innovation around sustainability - from product design, to how we choose and manage our resources and materials, to the ways we support our associates and the communities in which we operate."
Senior director of global sustainability Letitia Webster added: "Our first comprehensive Sustainability & Responsibility report is a milestone for VF and our brands. It's an opportunity to highlight the great efforts our brands and teams have led for many years.
"Now, with a centralised, global reporting infrastructure in place, we turn our focus to enhanced alignment and collaboration across our company to minimize our environmental footprint and spark innovation, while more effectively sharing our progress with all stakeholders."
One of the successful initiatives outlined in the report is the range of 1,500 eco-friendly styles offered by VF brands. For example, footwear and apparel in the Earthkeepers collection must meet specific criteria regarding recycled, organic and renewable materials, and water-based adhesives. The line has been so successful that Timberland plans to roll out many of its features across the entire brand.
Likewise, North Face has set a goal to use 100% recycled polyester fabric by 2016 - material that will be mainly sourced from post-consumer water bottle.
Approximately 98% of VF's primary energy comes from fossil fuels, which led to direct and indirect emissions of 1,449,581 tonnes of CO2 in 2013. That total was reduced by 0.2% during the year.
However that number still doesn't account for the emissions of factories that supply fabrics to VF, due to the "complexity and lack of direct control over contracted factories".
Significant progress was made in specific areas, which will be scaled up to reach a 5% emissions reduction target by 2015.
Compared with 2009, VF reduced absolute electricity use by 4.5 % and natural gas use by 2.8% at its 30-plus manufacturing sites by installing LED lighting, motion sensors, timers and variable speed controllers for dryers. These sites have also replaced older dryers with updated burner designs and profiled drying times for specific products.
Currently, VF sends 142,000 tonnes of waste to landfill, and recycles 148,000 tonnes. Between 2010 and 2013, the firm reduced its total owned manufacturing waste by 0.93 % to 11.91 %
To tackle this inertia, VF has set a 2020 target to reduce waste to landfill by 40% compared with a 2013 baseline. Initial programs to achieve these gains are relatively simple, such as double-sided printing, and composting waste where possible.
VF estimates that one traditional pair of jeans uses approximately 2,500 gallons of water during its lifetime. As a result, the firm said it aims to complete a holistic water strategy by 2016.
Current initiatives at individual factories include reducing water usage by improving plumbing fixtures, optimizing water pressure, using native plants and responsible irrigation techniques and minimizing water for internal laundries' wash.
View the full VF Corporation Sustainability Report at sustainability.vfc.com.