Our products define us. Our designers share a passion for finding solutions that reduce VF’s environmental footprint, while taking our products to the next level for our customers.
Our products represent our best thinking in how to design and develop solutions that meet and exceed customer and consumer expectations. We recognize a number of ways to advance our portfolio’s performance, from creating new sustainable product lines to designing durable products that last. We believe performance and sustainability are not at odds; rather, they can enhance each other. Every innovation should have a favorable outcome for both our customers and the planet.
Incorporating sustainability into the design process often introduces creative challenges for our product engineers and developers. Designing products with methods that use less water, energy and materials is incredibly difficult. We also demand high performance from our products, so determining which eco-conscious materials can meet functional requirements such as waterproofing, fireproofing and extreme weather protection is no simple task.
Adding to this list of requirements is that we also must develop these products in a responsible manner. VF’s product safety team ensures product health and safety regulatory requirements worldwide are incorporated into VF product standards, and it works frequently with individual brands during the product development phase to integrate product safety standards and certifications into product designs.
Fortunately, our designers embrace these challenges. The majority of our brands are already making significant progress toward integrating environmental and social criteria into their product processes. There are over 1,500 eco-friendly styles across VF brands that make up around 10 percent of our total VF revenue. Some exemplary brand-led sustainability choices include incorporating materials such as BCI cotton, bluesign® approved fabrics, water-based glues, recycled polyester and leather from Leather Working Group (LWG) certified tanneries. We are excited about the potential to scale these practices across each of our brands.
Examples of our brands’ sustainable product lines include:
TIMBERLAND® EARTHKEEPERS® COLLECTION
In 2006, Timberland® introduced the first-ever retail Green Index, which communicates information about how a product is made and its environmental impact.
Sustainability is at the core of the Timberland® brand’s culture, and the brand is dedicated to developing products with less environmental impacts. Introduced in 2007, the Timberland® brand’s Earthkeepers® collection uses recycled, organic or renewable materials in place of traditional raw materials where feasible. For example, the collection uses recycled PET plastic from water and soda bottles to create everything from shoe linings and laces to faux shearling. The Timberland® brand also developed its own material from recycled PET plastic, called ReCanvas, which has the same look and feel of cotton canvas without the agricultural impacts. The brand not only uses sustainable materials wherever feasible, through its quality requirements they also aim to develop products with the utmost durability so that consumers can enjoy their Timberland® brand products for years to come.
The Earthkeepers® collection is now the Timberland® brand’s largest product line – evidence that consumers favor environmentally conscious products.
LEE® RETHINK AND ECREATE
The Asia Lee® brand’s eco-friendly product line, ReThink, has achieved a 44 percent savings in water, a 30 percent savings in energy, and a 28 percent savings in carbon emissions compared to a typical pair of VF jeans produced in Asia.
The ReThink concept applies a holistic life cycle approach to jeans manufacturing that utilizes environmentally responsible processes for all phases of production – from cotton farming, yarn spinning and fabric weaving to cutting, sewing and distributing finished product. In addition, the Lee® brand uses creative sustainable design elements such as fibers with coffee ground additive and recycled PET plastic.
The India Lee® brand’s eCreate collection uses 60 percent less water compared with conventional denim manufacturing through a process called Aqualite. eCreate products also contain recycled PET plastic and organic cotton.
During the sandal-making process, Reef® uses pre-consumer recycled EVA to make new sandals.
Sustainability is deeply embedded in the Reef® brand product line and its designers are continuously seeking new ways to source and make products in a more environmentally responsible way. Every style in the Reef® brand line is made with water-based glues and is PVC-free. Products in the Reef® Redemption collection go further: they include materials such as organic cotton, recycled PET plastic, recycled adhesive EVA plastic content, water-based inks, organic textiles, hemp and Redemption Foam – a material made from plant cellulose. In spring 2013, the Reef® brand introduced a new program that uses an additive called Eco One to make EVA biodegradable in a landfill. The Reef® brand also recently partnered with a Leather Working Group gold-rated tannery to source leathers that have a lower impact on the environment.
The North Face®
The North Face® believes in creating products that positively impact the environment and society.
The North Face® brand leverages its scale to advance sustainability initiatives. Twenty percent of The North Face® sales can be attributed to eco-friendly products, and nearly 10 percent of The North Face® products are made using some portion of recycled materials. The Denali Jacket has long been one of The North Face® brand’s most iconic and popular pieces. Today, its fleece is made of 100 percent recycled PET content, while providing all the warmth, comfort and breathability associated with Polartec fabric. Using this recycled fabric, The North Face® brand eliminates 40 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per yard of fabric used – the equivalent of roughly 0.80 gallons of gasoline per jacket sold.
The North Face® brand also implements the bluesign® standard at its manufacturing partners’ facilities, which is a set of guidelines that address the environmental impact of certain materials in the brand’s supply chain. Learn more about the The North Face® brand partnership with bluesign®.
THE HIGG INDEX
The Timberland Green Index scoring system is an example of how a product’s environmental impacts are communicated to consumers. It was one of the inspirations for the industry-wide Higg Index.
The Higg Index is a tool that will enable the industry – as well as consumers and customers – to compare similar products against a standard set of environmental and social criteria. Just as consumers look at the ingredients in foods, the Higg Index hopes to allow accurate assessment of water, energy and chemical use in apparel products. In 2014, all of VF’s major suppliers will complete the Higg survey and report their results to us via supplier scorecards.
VF and its brands have played a defining role in creating the Higg Index. It was created by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), of which VF is a founding member. It grew out of the Outdoor Industry Association’s eco-index – a tool developed with input from The North Face® and Timberland® brands. In addition, some Higg Index strategies were based on the Timberland® brand’s own Green Index.
The Higg Index has three modules that each evaluate impacts through a different lens: product, brand and manufacturing facility. The concept is simple: If we can be more transparent about products’ contents, then designers and consumers will have a greater ability to make more responsible choices. The product module includes questions for users to consider at the beginning of the design process to help create a more sustainable product.
The brand module is designed to assess apparel or footwear-specific environmental practices at the brand level, and a similar tool for evaluating social and labor considerations is currently in the beta-test phase. The brand module helps users to identify potential improvements and opportunities. Across our brands, we are piloting and evaluating the brand module and product modules to best determine methods of embedding them into our operations.
Similarly, the manufacturing facility module enables users to identify structural and process-based improvement opportunities at specific manufacturing sites. VF is actively rolling out the facility module across our supply chain and looking to determine how these scores could influence sourcing decisions.