Following the disclosing of VF Group's Made for Change sustainability and CSR report for 2022, David Quass, senior director sustainability, VF International EMEA, explained The SPIN OFF what new and most sustainable initiatives the US holding has carried ahead for its most popular brands including, for instance, Vans' Sustainability Hub project, Timberland's Timberloop take back program and The North Face Renewed initiative.
In 2022, the Vans brand launched its Sustainability Hub, a digital destination which serves as a place where consumers can learn more about sustainable products, materials, commitments, and goals, and the ways in which Vans is adapting its business to be more sustainably focused. The Hub exists to amplify and reinforce the efforts Vans is undertaking to reduce its footprint.
Vans also unveiled its new VR3 product line and labeling. As consumers shop the brand in-store or online, Vans footwear, apparel and accessories featuring a new logo, the VR3 Checkerboard Globe logo are made of at least a combination of 30% of regenerative, responsibly sourced renewable and recycled materials make up that product. VR3 is the Vans' commitment to sourcing 100% of their top four CO2 impact materials–cotton, leather, rubber and polyester–from regenerative, responsibly rsourced renewable, and recycled sources by 2030.
What new projects is Timberland focused on, as part of VF's engagement to the sustainable cause?
Timberland has launched its Timberloop program in January 2022 in The US. Thanks to it, Timberland collects items for resale, helping to keep products out of landfills. Products returned through the Timberloop take back program are either refurbished for sale on a dedicated website, or items that are beyond repair are disassembled so that useable components can be recycled into new materials.
The Timberloop resale website went live in the U.S., enabling consumers to purchase Timberland products that were repaired or refurbished through the Timberloop program.
Later this year, the Timberloop product take back program was expanded to Europe. The program has been launched last April in The UK, Germany, France and Italy, and also expanded now in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden.
VF's sustainability report also speaks about Traceability Maps. What are they exactly, and what is their aim?
We know the greatest impacts occur at raw material cultivation, extraction and processing stages in the supply chain. Therefore, the more data we have on suppliers operating at these levels, the more opportunity we have to improve the lives of workers and impacts on the environment.
After completing our initial pilot to map ten iconic products across different VF brands in 2018, we set out to scale this work across our global supply chain by fully tracing 100 VF brand products and publishing traceability maps for each of them, for 960 suppliers. This has been essential to pivot to the next stage.
Now we have set an ambitious goal to fully trace the supply chain of five key materials–cotton, leather, wool, natural rubber and synthetics–from Tier 1 to Tier 5, by 2028.
Our comprehensive traceability program leverages commodity volume data, country-level risk maps, supplier surveys and environmental and social risk data to create valuable and actionable business information.
What are the main achievements carried ahead by the group in terms of circularity in 2022? And what are its future targets?
Developing and fostering practices that support a circular economy vision takes collaboration across VF and our portfolio of brands.
VF and our portfolio of brands is advancing initiatives that align with the guiding principles of circularity: minimizing virgin, non-renewable, fossil-based inputs; supporting regenerative processes; re-using materials and products for as long as possible; and reducing the waste to landfill stream. We are embracing circularity by working across the end-to-end value chain and product life cycles with a focus on the well-being of the environment and people.
Can you mention any brand focused to these objectives?
VF has been engaging itself to minimize resource consumption and eliminate waste through the adoption of circular design philosophies and started focusing on loop thinking at every stage of product creation.
Also focused on extending VF's portfolio of brands' product life cycles and provide value through after sales services, re-commerce, repair services and product take back programs is The North face brand's TNF Renewed platform whose mantra is "Give gear a second chance with The North Face Renewed. It's inspected, washed, tuned up and ready to hit the trail - again."
On Earth Day 2021, Smartwool partnered with material Return on the Second Cut Project sock take back event to give products a "second cut" at life and help create a more circular supply chain. The project represents a pillar of the brand's ambitious ten-year social impact road map.