The North Face to offset all emissions from athlete expeditions

Outdoor clothing brand The North Face has committed to offset 100% of the emissions it generates by sending athletes on expeditions as its parent company strives to set a science-based target for emissions reductions.

The brand announced today (11 September) that it will offset all emissions generated through its athlete expeditions by purchasing carbon credits from The Conservation Fund, which facilitates forest protection and reforestation projects across the US.

Specifically, the credits purchased by The North Face will be used to support the planting of 200,000 trees at the Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas. The Conservation Fund estimates that the reforestation project will trap around 200,000 tonnes of CO2 over the lifetime of the trees – the emissions equivalent of removing 40,000 cars from the road for a year.

“Our expeditions are a huge part of who we are at The North Face and how we encourage a culture of exploration,” The North Face’s director of sustainability James Rogers said.  

“We’ve committed to addressing climate change from all angles – through our products, energy use, operations, packaging and shipping – and we’re proud that offsetting the emissions from our expeditions is now part of our strategy.”

The first expedition to be covered by the move will be The North Face’s recent trip to Antarctica, which saw a team of seven athletes test the company’s clothing and camping equipment over a month-long period across December 2017 and January 2018.

Such expeditions have been carried out by The North Face since the company was founded in 1966, and are now routinely used to gather data on the effects of climate change – such as glacial melting, diminished snowpack and avalanches – while testing the firm’s products in a real-world environment.

To calculate the environmental impacts of its expeditions, the company uses its own custom carbon calculator to factor elements such as helicopter travel, stove fuel and the carbon footprint of the food supplies used.

Climate leaders

The announcement from The North Face follows on from parent company VF Corporation’s commitment to offset emissions generated at its owned and operated facilities in the US, as well as through business travel, employee commuting and e-commerce shipping. 

In a bid to achieve this aim, VF Corporation has pledged to announce a science-based target for carbon reduction by 2019 and transition to 100% renewables at its 2,000 owned and operated facilities worldwide by 2025. As of January, 42% of energy sourced by VF Corporation in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa) came from renewable sources.

The targets form part of the company’s newest sustainability strategy, which was released last December and includes an aspirational goal to “lead the large-scale commercialisation of circular business models through brand-led re-commerce and rental initiatives”.

Since the launch of the strategy, the company, which also owns Vans and Timberland, has launched a refurbished garments service as part of a shift towards servitisation models through its The North Face brand. Called “Renewed”, the scheme acts as an online hub for the brand to sell refurbished products that are sourced from returned, damaged or defective apparel.

VF Corporation’s sustainability and senior director Anna Maria Rugarli recently told edie that the closed-loop clothing scheme is a prime example of how circular business offerings can be used to attract new customers while championing the importance of sustainability.

“It’s a new world, in terms of expanding our business, and [the launch] allows us to reach out to new consumers that aren’t necessarily interested in purchases,” Rugarli told edie. “We can do this while championing the durability of our products as one of the key sustainability aspects of our offer.”

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie