VF operates in a wide variety of contexts – from plants to offices to retail stores. Each produces its own challenges and opportunities for waste reduction. We are developing strategies and setting goals that will help us reduce our waste at all levels of our operations.
The materials we use today that are not directly incorporated into our products – such as corrugate, shopping bags, hangers and paper – provide an opportunity to build sustainable sourcing into our global purchasing practices. VF’s Global Procurement Team is now working to establish sustainability standards for these materials.
Sustainable sourcing remains a key element in our purchasing processes.
Additionally, we use our organizational scale to buy more sustainable materials at bulk rates. Previously decentralized, VF brands had purchased materials independently. The smaller size of orders often resulted in higher unit prices, and this sometimes forced brands to use less desirable materials. Today, VF’s Global Procurement Team aggregates orders to achieve price parity and, in some cases, outright savings. This enables us to both help our brands meet their goals and to send strong signals to suppliers and vendors that VF prefers sustainably sourced materials. Major sustainability benefits include increased recycled content in printed materials, bags and corrugate, requirements of certified paper usage and more efficient shipments of small packages.
Today, VF diverts approximately 40 percent of our distribution centers waste from landfills to recycling. Our waste analysis showed further room for improvement. An additional 16 percent of our waste is recyclable, another 40 percent is potentially recyclable and 19 percent is compostable. This exercise also revealed the largest contributors to our waste stream: pallets and crates, adhesive backing tape, paper towels, corrugate cardboard and food.
Our distribution centers are great areas of opportunity to divert waste from landfills.
VF purchases 8,000 tons of corrugate cardboard for our distribution centers every year. We have set a goal for 100 percent of this material to be FSC or SFI-certified (or have a clear chain of custody) and contain a minimum 30 percent recycled content by 2015. We are also reusing our shipping boxes – in many cases up to five times – thereby reducing raw materials and costs. Once boxes reach their maximum use, they are added to our recycling streams and repurposed as post-consumer materials.
All of our distribution centers have a sustainability team in place, most of which focus on waste reduction by implementing recycling programs. The team at our Mexico City Outdoor & Action Sports distribution center, for instance, has eliminated the use of plastic tape and shrink-wrap – instead opting to use paper tape and reusable Velcro straps to seal and secure cartons.
Our definition of a zero waste facility at VF is one that has achieved a 95 percent waste diversion rate. In 2013, our distribution centers in Santa Fe Springs, California, and Hackleburg, Alabama, became zero-waste-to-landfill facilities. These centers have become models for developing strategies to achieve zero waste for our new distribution centers. We are sharing waste audit information and insights gleaned from our zero-waste facilities in Santa Fe Springs and Hackleburg with our other distribution centers. In 2014, our Martinsville, Virginia and Mocksville, North Carolina, centers also achieved zero-waste status. Recommendations include such things as appropriate placement of bins throughout the facility; sufficient back-end collection from haulers; and an update of purchasing practices and shipping materials to ensure maximum recycling or reuse.
VF Green Teams play a key role in supporting sustainability practices in our offices.
The waste produced by our offices is 29 percent compostable, 28 percent recyclable and 19 percent potentially recyclable, pending the introduction of additional sorting and salvaging activities.
Greensboro, North Carolina VF’s World Headquarters office has set a goal to become a zero-waste facility by 2015. VF associates in Greensboro, at our World Headquarters buildings and our Jeanswear offices, can recycle almost anything. Over a 12-month period, the Greensboro offices and facilities recycled more than 486,000 pounds of materials in total. This figure includes 163,000 pounds of scrap metal, 122,000 pounds of cardboard, 106,000 pounds of office paper, 76,000 pounds of denim, 17,000 pounds of various plastics, 655 pounds of aluminum drink cans and an additional sum of glass, Styrofoam, e-waste and batteries. To date we are at a 70 percent diversion rate and working toward zero-waste by end of 2016.
Stabio, Switzerland VF’s International Headquarters incorporates a number of waste-reduction features, including: reusable kitchen items; eco-products for cleaning; waste sorting and disposal systems in accordance with LEED guidelines and Stabio municipality rules; and measurement of outbound waste streams. Also there are 14 recycling areas throughout the building, the photocopiers default to double-sided printing, and 75 percent of the furniture came from the former office building. To further encourage waste reduction, none of the office’s personal workspaces contain trash bins.
Each week, recycling efforts prevent at least 635 tons of waste per week – or 33,000 tons each year – from reaching landfills. A total of seven VF distribution centers have achieved zero-waste.
VF employs dedicated engineers to develop innovative techniques to use materials more wisely and partners with external organizations that are able to recycle our byproducts and help us bypass landfills.
Associates at our Acanceh, Mexico facility play a major role in waste reduction.
For example, our plant in Acanceh, Mexico, recycles or composts more than 80 percent of all leftover materials. We recently started diverting all cafeteria waste to a local hog farm, where the farmer uses this leftover food to help raise his livestock. The facility also performs daily gardening maintenance and composts the garden waste. Since 2012, Acanceh has reduced its organic food and gardening waste by 90 percent and is using the resulting compost to improve the health of plants around the facility.
Our retail stores pose waste reduction challenges, as we do not directly control the recycling options provided by the shopping center or landlord. We work with each landlord or developer to find individualized solutions for each store. To meet these challenges, we are focused primarily on ensuring the materials used within the stores are as sustainable as possible from the beginning.
VF’s primary focus in retail is ensuring materials used in our stores are as eco-friendly as possible.
We are integrating sustainability criteria into procurement standards for items like shopping bags, hangers and fixtures to ensure they are responsibly sourced, certified and include recycled or re-used content.
The use of shopping bags with recyclable materials is a meaningful way VF brands can minimize their environmental footprint. In Europe, across our brands we have incorporated either FSC certified materials or materials with at least 40 percent recycled content into all of our shopping bags. By leveraging our scale, we managed to accomplish this at price parity or below, often saving 20 to 30 percent. By purchasing across brands and at scale, we’re able to drive prices down and the volume of recycled products up across our retail locations.
THE NORTH FACE® LEADS THE WAY
The North Face® brand Loop Tote is made from recycled content.
While many of our brands are doing exceptional work, The North Face® has implemented a host of successful waste reduction initiatives that we believe can be scaled across other brands to benefit all of VF.
Polybags from product shipments account for nearly a quarter of all waste from its retail operation. Since 2011, The North Face® brand has diverted 1.5 million polybags to be recycled or “upcycled” into various products, such as plastic lumber, bike racks and pavers.
Since 2012, The North Face® brand has recycled approximately 4,500 pounds of clothes through its partnership with Clothes the Loop, a clothing-recycling initiative. Clothes the Loop programs will be expanded to most of the brand’s retail stores in 2014.
Since 2009, The North Face® brand has offered a reusable bag, the Loop Tote, made from repurposed scrap materials. Over 30,000 Loop Totes have been sold at retail stores, repurposing more than 17,000 yards of waste material. For each tote sold, $1 is donated to the Children & Nature Network, an organization built around reconnecting children with the outdoors.