The North Face and Timberland owner commits to sustainable forestry

VF Corporation, the parent company of global footwear and apparel brands The North Face, Timberland and Vans, has moved to minimise its impacts on deforestation with a new set of policies for the company's purchasing preferences and use of sustainable forest materials.

VF’s new forestry policy, announced on Monday (27 February), aims to tackle issues such as loss of endangered forests, biodiversity and habitat, and the use of forced labour in manufacturing forestry products.

The strategy promotes the use of products made with recycled fibre “whenever possible”. It also strives to elevate all third-party forestry management certification systems such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

“Deforestation and forest degradation continues to be a global issue affecting climate change and human rights,” said VF’s vice president of global corporate sustainability Letitia Webster. “This policy provides clear guidance across our many purchasing categories and it enables us to play our part in protecting the world’s forests.”

‘Incredible momentum’

The new policy emboldens VF’s broader efforts to use responsibly sourced materials throughout its global operations and supply chain. The North Face is committed to a responsible chemistry programme, which aims to create significant environmental savings that go beyond compliance, to identify environmentally preferable chemicals and to reduce overall chemical use in its supply chain.

Speaking exclusively to edie recently, Timberland’s sustainability senior manager for the EMEA region Aurelie Dumont confirmed that the brand will ramp up its circular economy efforts as a number of innovative closed-loop models for footwear approach the next stages of development

VF, which reduced its global carbon emissions by 12% from 2011 to 2015, has already partnered with a number of NGOs and external stakeholders to drive its CSR programme – including an innovative partnership with tyre manufacturer and distributor Omni United to produce a line of tyres intended to be recycled into footwear out-soles.

The firm also now works with Canopy, a not-for-profit environmental organisation dedicated to protecting forests, species and climate. VF’s new policy supports the CanopyStyle initiative, which has a goal to eliminate the use of ancient and endangered forests in the production of forest derived fabrics such as rayon and viscose from the apparel and fashion industries by the end of 2017.

Speaking about VF’s latest commitment to tackling deforestation, Canopy executive director Nicole Rycroft said: “When an apparel giant like VF expands its forest commitment with a policy like this, it adds incredible momentum to global forest conservation and climate efforts.”

Sustainable clothing

The clothing sector is battling against its fast fashion tag, with several brands striving to gain a better reputation for sustainability with a swathe of initiatives that focus on sustainable purposes. In May, Timberland set itself a new list of ambitious sustainability targets for 2020, including goals to plant 10 million trees and ensure that 50% of energy comes from renewable sources.

Meanwhile, five leading clothing brands and retailers including Primark and Peak Performance have signed up to WRAPs cooperative European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP), which aims to promote sustainable clothing across the continent.

Elsewhere, American clothing firm Patagonia recently raised $10m for environmental grassroots nonprofits, after donating 100% of the global sales that it generated from Black Friday. In the run-up to the US election, the firm launched a major non-partisan environmental campaign that aimed to place sustainability at the heart of the ballot.

George Ogleby

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