“Routes established as glacial climbs have melted out. Glaciers have receded leaving swaths of debris in their wake and peaks that were held together by permafrost are melting. The Himalaya will be affected by a warming climate in the coming decades. As its 5,000 glaciers melt, the rivers that flow from the mountains will cease to be perennial and become seasonal, threatening the water supply for the one-fifth of the world’s population that receives water from the Himalaya.
The North Face is committed to reducing its carbon footprint. From the solar installations at our facilities to the energy saving practices in our textile mills, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce our impact. It is more than ‘doing the right thing’ – it is our brand heritage.”
– Conrad Anker, Alpinist and The North Face Athlete
The North Face equips explorers to push their limits so they can experience the thrill and joy of the unknown. What we do know is that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is human caused and is having an adverse affect on our planet. We were built on a love for the outdoors and it’s in our heritage to protect the places we love to play. Addressing climate change is not only good for the planet, it’s good for business. Our athletes travel to some of the most remote places on the planet and they have seen firsthand the effects of climate change. Glaciers are receding and permafrost is melting. The winter ski season is changing dramatically and once in a lifetime events such as storms, fires, and floods are occurring much more often.
“We believe the success of our business is fundamenally linked to having a healthy planet.”
-Todd Spaletto, President, The North Face
With more than four decades in the outdoor retail business, we have a long-term view of our business and environmental priorities. In 2009, we joined other forward-looking companies in the Ceres Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) coalition to advocate for progressive climate change policies. Through our parent company, VF Corporation, we also report to the Carbon Disclosure Project to further communicate our efforts and to support our stakeholders’ desire for increased transparency.
We were one of the initial 33 signatories of the Climate Declaration in 2013 urging federal policymakers to tackle climate change. As of April 2014, 750 businesses had signed the Declaration, demonstrating to policymakers that the U.S. business community is ready for comprehensive climate change policies.
In December 2015, we wrote an op-ed, “Washington Must Act on Climate Change,” calling for impactful action to address carbon emissions. We support the Paris Climate Agreement and are a signatory of the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA statement. The statement asks our elected U.S. leaders to strongly support:
1. Continuation of low-carbon policies
2. Investment in the low carbon economy
3. Continued US participation in the Paris Agreement
While reducing our direct energy footprint is our first priority, we have purchased offsets since 2007 for greenhouse gas emissions we haven’t yet eliminated. These include emissions from our U.S. facilities and employee commuting, as well as for the business travel for all North American associates. Since 2010 we have offset the emissions generated from shipping e-commerce orders to our US customers. Through our partnership with the non-profit Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), who manage our offsets, from 2018 onwards we are now offsetting all the emissions generated from shipping e-commerce orders to our customers across Europe.
Since 2007, we have offset 100 percent of the emissions from our business travel and employee commuting through the Conservation Fund’s Go Zero® program. Go Zero offsets emissions by leveraging the carbon absorbing abilities of trees by planting and protecting forests in national wildlife refuges in the United States. From 2008 to 2013, our offsets removed almost 18,000 metric tonnes of CO2 through the planting of approximately 20,000 trees in the Lower Mississippi region. In our own backyard, we preserved 10 acres of California’s redwoods that will continue to trap carbon instead of being cut down.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored our consistent offset of 100% of our U.S. energy use with Green Power Leadership Awards in 2012 and 2013. Noting that green power purchasing is an integral and important feature of the company’s sustainability strategy, the EPA also commended our climate education efforts through the Hot Planet/Cool Athlete program. The EPA also highlighted our promotion of green power usage to customers via signage at cash registers and in-store dressing rooms.
We have been tracking the greenhouse gas emissions from our U.S facilities to monitor our progress toward our five-year, 2013 goal of a 25 percent reduction in sales-normalized emissions. Despite major investments in renewable energy at our distribution center, our new headquarters in California, and in retail store retrofits, we achieved a 21 percent reduction, short of the progress we had anticipated. As our retail facilities are responsible for 67 percent of our total measured emissions, we needed greater reductions at these facilities to meet our goal. This proved difficult at our leased stores where we do not have as much control over infrastructure. While per store emissions dropped 5.4 percent, reflecting greater energy efficiency per unit sold, these reductions fell short of those needed for our five-year goal.
In Europe we continue to make strong progress. Working with our parent company VF Corporation, we have developed sustainability guidelines for our Real Estate, Retail Construction and Operations teams, which cover our facilities in EMEA. The guidelines have been developed following the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) construction list, and touch upon different areas, such as materials, energy and waste management. Most of our retail stores use LED lighting, sustainable and locally sourced materials and light & motion sensors. At present 61% of VF’s locations in Europe are running on green energy.
As we move ahead, we will continue to pursue opportunities at owned facilities and retail retrofits, however our focus is moving increasingly toward reducing impacts in manufacturing where our greatest impacts occur.
Hot Planet/Cool Athletes
Hot Planet/Cool Athletes connects high school and middle school students with our most powerful messengers – our athletes. Through a partnership with Protect Our Winters, our professional athletes share firsthand accounts of how climate change is affecting their sport, making climate change easy for students to understand. The empowering multi-media presentation also offers tools for taking action. Since 2011, 18 of our athletes, like Kit Deslauriers and Jimmy Chin, have reached 35,000 high school and middle school students across North America.