The North Face issues 2014 sustainability report

The North Face, a popular US-based brand and chain of outdoor products with stores and dealers in Canada, has issued its 2014 Corporate Responsibility report.

Among the aspects reported:

  • The North Face Denali jacket, a product the Company describes as ‘iconic’, is made from 100 percent from recycled content. The Company has set a goal to reach 100 percent of its polyester fabric to be made from recycled content, primarily water bottles, by 2016.
  • The Company receives more than 160,000 product units each year at its warranty department and almost half are repairable and returned to consumers. The remainder are donated or downcycled depending on the condition.
  • The Company encourages consumers to drop off unwanted clothing and footwear from any brand in any condition at 27 participating The North Face retail stores. The items are sent to a recycling centre where they are carefully sorted and then repurposed for reuse to extend their life or recycled into raw materials for use in products like insulation, carpet padding, stuffing for toys, and fibers for new clothing.
  • At its California headquarters the Company diverts 86 percent of all waste from landfills. It maintains a recycling centre for hard-to-recycle items and a sustainable café that provides only reusable or compostable dishes and utensils.
  • It  tracks greenhouse gas emissions to monitor progress toward a five-year (2013) goal of a 25-percent reduction in sales-normalized emissions. As of July 2014 the Company achieved a 21-percent reduction. It found its biggest challenge came from retail facilities, which account for 67 percent of total measured emissions and are often leased stores. Without full control over the infrastructure of many of its retail stores, the Company is limited in the changes which can be implemented. To make up this deficit the Company continues to pursue opportunities at its owned facilities and through retail retrofits.
  • The North Face works continuously with suppliers to reduce chemicals, water, energy, and waste in their mills. Savings since 2010 are equivalent to removing more than 100 tanker trucks of chemicals and more than 230 Olympic swimming pools of water.
  • The North Face has created the Responsible Down Standard to help to ensure that its down does not come from animals that have been subject to any unnecessary harm, such as force-feeding or live-plucking, and to provide a traceability system to validate the original source of down used in The North Face products. Certified down will be incorporated into products starting in Fall 2015 with a goal of 100 percent certification by Fall 2017.
  • The North Face has partnered with experts to help its mills reduce their impact by using water and energy more efficiently and by addressing harmful chemicals at the fabric level.
  • The Company conducts annual social, environmental, and ethical audits of its suppliers.

There is no evidence on the Company’s website that all of the sustainability claims have been independently audited or verified, nor does the report conform to Global Reporting Initiative or other recognized sustainability reporting standard. However the initiatives show leadership by a manufacturer and brandowner in a product sector that is likely to appeal to an environmentally concerned category of consumers.

The report is available at http://neverstopexploring.com/2014/07/22/north-face-2014-corporate-responsibility-report/ and at http://www.thenorthface.com/en_US/innovation/sustainability/ where links direct to more details of some aspects of the report.

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