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Written by: Alessa Morjaria

On April 21, 2021, North Face revealed their brand’s new sustainability vision, “Exploration Without Compromise,” ensuring all products are fabricated with recycled, regenerative, or responsibly sourced renewable fabrics. In this new era, many global retailers are releasing sustainable lines and plant-based products. Still, few are making changes to their business model and production lines to combat climate change long-term. The North Face has recently labeled itself as one of the views by releasing its ambitious goals for the company’s near future. 

With their current efforts, The North Face is on track to attain 100% responsibility sourced fabrics for their apparel in 2025 and equipment by 2030. The company stated that rethinking the use of raw materials is critical in achieving its sustainability goals. Whether turning discarded plastics into T-shirts, bio-based materials into leather, or ensuring synthetics are just as eco-friendly as natural fibers, the company pledged to innovate.

Image via VogueBusiness

North Face's Long Term Goals

  1. Transition their nine most used fabrics into regenerative, recycled, or responsibly sourced renewable materials. 
  2. Reduce the impact of their key materials and processes by 35% by 2025 while exploring bio-based alternatives rather than the traditional petroleum-based synthetic materials.
  3. Source 50% of their nylon and polyester from recycled fabrics and eliminate single-use plastics by 2025.
  4. Purchase cotton that is grown outside the USA or Australia strictly following the cotton-growing sustainability scheme.
  5. Launch new circular e-commerce platform, The North Face Renewed support reselling, repairing, and recycling of the company’s products.

The new sustainable materials vision is focused on three key areas:

Materials produced using regenerative agriculture or grazing practices.

Renewables

Responsibly sourced renewable materials naturally regenerate in a human’s lifetime and have been vetted for the responsible production of feedstocks and processing methods.

Recycling

Raw materials made from recycled and disposed items.

Image via Hypebeast
Image via Hypebeast

The Brand's Commitment to Their Stakeholders

Aside from its ambitious sustainable efforts, The North Face has also partnered with Indigo Ag to help reward cotton farmers who utilize sustainable practices. The collaboration allows the company to support local American farmers to start beneficial farming practices and inform other growers that regenerative land management is critical to restoring our earth. 

 All of these goals lead to one more significant achievement for the company: circularity and transparency. The North Face offers lifetime warranties, the Renewed Program, and repairs and repurposes used or damaged items to be reused. Additionally, now customers who are part of the brand’s loyalty program can exchange their own lightly used garments in exchange for a gift card.

Currently, consumers can quickly identify the brand’s most sustainable products on its website and in-store by searching for the “Exploration Without Compromise” seal. To earn this certification, the clothing, equipment, and accessories must be made with at least 75% recycled, organic, regenerative, or responsibly sourced renewable materials.

The Environmental Impact of Materials

The extraction, manufacturing, and fabrication of raw materials are the most detrimental contributors to our global carbon footprint. The production of materials requires an immense amount of energy and is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, production and at end-of-life disposal are responsible for approximately 25% of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. However, recognizing those choices in raw materials and those low (or even positive) carbon impacts can drive science-based environmental and economic goals. 

Material efficiency entails pursuing consumer behaviours, technical strategies, business models, and policy changes resulting in a substantial reduction in the production of non-biodegradable synthetic materials. The fashion industry is responsible for a shocking 20% of all water pollution worldwide. If the industry continues on its current path, it is expected to produce 26% of the world’s carbon footprint by 2050.

Image via NorthFace

Over the past decades, we have seen a significant shift in which large retailers use materials, manufacturers, designers, and consumers alike. While natural fibers dominated the scene 50 years ago, we now see an abundance of synthetic fibers (polyester, nylon, acrylic) fibers emerging.  

The reason behind this shift is simple: these fibers are much cheaper and easier to mass-produce. These materials dominate the fast fashion industry while creating damage to the environment – producing overwhelming amounts of chemicals, waste, and carbon emissions. Forbes contributor James Conca stated that the clothing industry is responsible for at least 10% of all global emissions, the second largest industry polluter worldwide. This number represents more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Changes In the Industry

“There are growing expectations for purpose-driven actions from brands to care for their local communities and address issues relevant to their consumers. But these changes didn’t start because of Covid. However, there is no doubt that recent events will serve to accelerate these consumer behaviors,” says Steve Rendle, the CEO of VF Corporation. While Millennials become the largest and most influential consumer group, large companies must adjust to their beliefs and values to remain competitive. Research shows that 88% of consumers are in favour of brands displaying environmentally friendly and sustainable efforts. Other brands like Patagonia, Levi’s, Toms have led these global environmental initiatives while using locally made and recycled materials and many are beginning to follow.

Finally, the world’s largest outdoor apparel company announced new commitments that are meant to give the used items a second life, create environmentally friendly products, and keep the brand accountable for lessening its waste and carbon footprint, which is a significant step for the clothing industry!

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