Like VF with Marianella Cervi. Tackling sustainability
VF is committed to being more than just a clothing, footwear and accessories company. The fashion company with 13 well-known names strives to be goal-oriented and performance-oriented with a focus on sustainability and responsibility. To learn more about VF’s sustainable strategies, FashionUnited spoke to Marianella Cervi, Senior Manager, Sustainability and CSR, EMEA.
“At VF we live our purpose, we drive movements for a sustainable and active lifestyle for the benefit of people and our planet,” explains Cervi. âThanks to the targeted orientation, we can have a positive influence in all phases of our value chain. When we turn raw cotton into fabric, from fabric into clothing, and from clothing into a brand, we create value. ”
What are VF’s most important sustainability strategies and goals?
Cervi: Our work is guided by our strategic framework Made for Change, which is based on three pillars: Circular Business Models, Scale for Good and Movement Makers.
At VF, we believe that the linear production system is unsustainable for a planet with a growing population and limited resources. The âtake, make, wasteâ approach is causing our industry to lose valuable financial and environmental assets. If successful, our circular approach means that materials are used over and over and that old products are kept in circulation for as long as possible or processed into new ones with very little waste.
How does VF approach the concept of circularity?
Our circular economy strategy focuses on three areas: Recommerce, Take Back Schemes and Circular Design. In apparel, these business models are already proving successful, and we are aiming for large-scale commercialization of circular business models through brand-led re-commerce and rental initiatives by 2030.
Embedding circularity, however, requires an interruption in current processes and the drive to think differently. For this reason, in 2020 we trained over 350 designers, product developers and executives in all regions on circular design principles in order to design accordingly.
Can you share some of VF’s circular initiatives?
The NapapijriÂ® brand has a Circular series of 100 percent recyclable jackets with a mono-material composition that enables an easy recycling process. Filling and trimmings made of nylon 6, the fabric made of ECONYLÂ® Regenerated Nylon, a high-performance nylon 6 yarn that is recycled from discarded fishing nets and other waste materials. To close the loop and make the innovation really circular, the Circular Series jacket has been Cradle2Cradle Gold certified since 2020.
Last year, the TimberlandÂ® brand announced a bold vision that their products should have a net positive impact on nature by 2030. In particular, the brand has committed itself to making 100 percent of its products circular by 2030. All products are made from materials that would otherwise have been wasted, e.g. plastic bottles, old leather, old wool. Products are also designed to be recyclable at the “end of life” so that they can be dismantled and made into something new. In this context, the brand recently announced an important next step on its journey towards a circular economy with the upcoming launch of a global product take-back program. Developed in partnership with global innovation company ReCircled, the takeback program provides the robust infrastructure needed to advance Timberland’s circular design and development cycle.
The brand also unveiled its latest eco-innovation, the Timberloop â¢ Trekker – a new spring 2022 city walker designed specifically for circularity. With sneaker-like comfort and a progressive outdoor look, the Timberloop â¢ Trekker has a unique sole construction in which the outer soles can be easily removed in the ReCircled system and each part can be fed into its own unique recycling stream.
How does VF intend to commercialize circular business models?
Recommerce represents a large and dynamic resale market for our brands, a market that could add new revenue streams to complement our existing sales models and channels. Recommerce can also encourage new consumers to experience our iconic brands and give them access to quality products at lower prices. By reselling used products, we can drastically reduce our ecological footprint while enabling consumers to reduce their own carbon footprint.
At the brand level, there are several ongoing initiatives, including The North FaceÂ® brand’s Renewed program, a collection of remanufactured clothing that can be redesigned. Renewed equipment is professionally cleaned and inspected by The North FaceÂ® partners in The Renewal Workshop. Then it is repaired, quality checked and sent back to the world. Everything that cannot be renewed is upcycled in the The North FaceÂ® REMADE collection, what does not go into The North FaceÂ® REMADE is recycled. After the successful introduction of The North FaceÂ® Renewed in the USA, the program has now been expanded with the start in Germany in May 2021.
The EastpakÂ® brand has launched Re-built to Resist, a groundbreaking collection that transforms previously worn bags into new, unique designs. In the process of disassembling carried bags, pieces of fabric are spliced ââtogether to create unique designs that do not match fabrics and colors. This collection marks the next step in the brand’s change towards sustainable solutions and circular business models.
As part of the global TimberlandÂ® partnership with Recircled, consumers in the USA can return all TimberlandÂ® shoes, clothing or accessories to a TimberlandÂ® store starting in August, for either repair or sale in a special re-commerce platform or upcycling / recycling into future products. The brand will launch a digital shipping option later this summer, which will make it even easier for consumers to participate. After the start in the USA, the program is to be expanded to EMEA in the fall of this year and to the APAC region in spring 2022.
VF has set itself ambitious sustainable material goals – how is that achieved?
Raw materials make up 42 percent of our ecological footprint and we are working to drastically reduce the impact of our most important materials so that we can continue to produce high-performance clothing and shoes in a resource-constrained future. By 2030, 100 percent of our top nine materials will come from regenerative, responsibly sourced renewable or recycled sources.
As part of the TimberlandÂ® brand’s bold environmental vision announced last fall, the brand has also committed to sourcing 100 percent of its natural materials from regenerative agriculture by 2030. Timberland recently announced two new models with regenerative leather, including the Atlanta Green EK + Oxford. for women and the TrueCloud EK + sneakers for men. Regenerative farming methods give the land a rest so it can absorb carbon, retain water, and restore biodiversity to pastures where cattle graze.
In addition, VF’s icebreakerÂ® brand has committed to making 100 percent of its materials plastic-free by 2023 and banning plastics from their entire collection within three years. Earlier this year, the icebreakerÂ® and SmartwoolÂ® brands partnered with The New Zealand Merino Company and other merino brands to create the world’s first regenerative wool platform that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions on 2.4 million acres of land in New Zealand reduce. The ZQRX platform challenges farmers to go beyond sustainability and continuously push themselves through improvements to understand the complex interactions between their livestock, soils, climate, ecology and community.
As part of the recently announced âExploration Without Compromiseâ brand sustainability strategy, The North FaceÂ® has set itself an ambitious goal of ensuring that all of the products it makes are made from recycled, regenerative, organic or sustainably sourced renewable materials. those made of materials that replenish in the course of life. The North FaceÂ® is well on the way to achieving its goal of all of its clothing by 2025 and all of its shoes and equipment by 2030.
Does VF also work with other industry leaders to develop more sustainable supply chain practices?
We use purpose-led as a strategic filter for our decision-making. This filter guides how we act and grow our business. Our goal is to drive profitable growth and meet societal needs. Traceability gives us insight into every aspect of our supply chain and areas that need improvement, while transparency is the tool that enables us to build trust with stakeholders and consumers. It’s not easy – our supply chain spans roughly 36 countries and thousands of shipments. We constantly drive and strive for traceability of raw materials and distribution.
VF announced that it will eliminate all single-use plastic packaging, including poly bags, by 2025 – how are you going to do that? Our new global packaging targets are an example of how we can use our size to make a significant impact – in just one year we could potentially eliminate up to 100 million poly bags from our packaging waste. Given the amount of plastic packaging waste in today’s world, the focus on sustainable packaging is an important part of VF’s global sustainability strategy.
Our goal is to eliminate all single-use plastic packaging by 2025 and reduce all remaining packaging, come from sustainable sources, and be designed for reuse or recyclability.
For example, by 2023, all single-use plastics in product packaging will be 100 percent recycled, bio-based, or a combination of both being party-certified new content, or a combination of both by 2023.
VF will also commit to leadership in key industrial coalitions and political initiatives to build a circular packaging infrastructure that will make its promise possible by 2025.