With Earth Month wrapped up for the year, it’s important to recognize the larger sustainability commitments brands are making for a better tomorrow.
Individual product releases and experiential activations can be a great opportunity to focus on Earth-friendlier actions brands and consumers can make, as well as showcase innovation in materials and manufacturing. However inspiring, these short-term initiatives can also carry their own criticism around topics like a lack of urgency, unnecessary waste, and so on.
It’s the long-term brand goals and pledges that really make a difference in shifting an entire company culture for the greater good.
We rounded up and examined some of the environmental and socio-economical commitments brands made in April.
The outdoor apparel and footwear company is not new to rethinking its product, materials, manufacturing, and operations with sustainability in mind. Through initiatives like Clothes the Loop where people are incentivized to recycle their TNF products, and the Renewed collections made up of used jackets, outerwear, and apparel restored to like-new conditions, the brand has interwoven previous commitments to circularity in the life of its products.
The North Face’s latest pledge incorporates a consumer-facing “Exploration Without Compromise” badge onto products that have at least 75% recycled, regenerative, and/or responsibly-sourced renewable materials by pound. TNF claims it’s on track to hit a goal of 100% responsibly-sourced apparel fabrics by 2025, and all footwear and equipment by 2030. Additionally, the brand plans on eliminating single-use plastic packaging by 2025.
There’s no surprise that The North Face and Vans’ sustainability commitments are similar as both are under VF Corporation’s umbrella, which has been introducing eco-friendly pledges across all of its brands (Timberland, Eastpak, and more) for a number of years now.
In order to drill down to the foundation of its footwear, Vans is focusing on main materials, including rubber, cotton, leather, and polyester. The brand plans on reducing the average impact of these top materials by utilizing 50% recycled polyester by 2025 and sourcing 100% sustainably grown cotton by 2025.
These are the latest major steps to a goal of using fully recycled, regenerative, and/or responsibility sourced renewable materials by 2030. And also similarly to TNF, Vans hopes to fully eliminate plastic shopping bags in all of its retail spaces by the end of this year.
Although Patagonia is widely regarded as one of the blueprint examples for tackling environmental and societal issues in the apparel space, the outdoor brand knows there is always room for improvement and innovation. The simple action of no longer adding any additional nonremovable logos, like company graphics, to its product may seem trivial, but what the company has found is that these extra embellishments may stump the product’s lifespan.
“People change jobs, and the extra logo makes for an awkward re-gift. People tend not to pass logo’d gear down to their kids, and not everyone wants to be an advertisement on weekends, even if they’re proud to go into work on weekdays,” said Patagonia in a blogpost.
Allbirds, the direct-to-consumer footwear brand, has recently outlined a “to-do” list of environmentally-focused goals and commitments it aims to reach by 2025. This includes shifting how the brand farms for materials in order to offset its overall impact. The goal is to transition its wool supply chain to only buying from regenerative sources by the end of 2025.
Although it’s a step in the right direction, it still begs the question: can the overall process of shearing sheep for shoes actually be good for the environment? Should we stop at finding “ethically” sourced wool or do we focus our efforts on the growing number of animal-free material alternatives?
The global footwear and apparel retailer recently announced a partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corporation to establish a multi-million-dollar program that will span 12 US metropolitan areas where Foot Locker has a strong presence in the community. The company aims to provide grants starting at $20,000 to organizations and nonprofits that prioritize efforts promoting racial justice and equity, youth empowerment and career readiness, and community health, wellness and recreation.
This program is just the latest in Foot Locker’s 2020 pledge to donate $200 million USD over five years to the BIPOC communities it serves.
The Boston-based footwear and apparel brand has extended its overall Responsible Leadership mission to outline key eco-friendly initiatives it plans to realize by 2030. This includes: using 100% renewable electricity across its global operations by 2025; reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 as a signatory of the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Change; sending zero waste to landfill from its footwear factories by 2025; and using both 50% recycled polyester and 100% preferred leather by 2025.
Additionally, New Balance is working towards offering all women factory workers educational and skills courses in order to foster greater levels of community stability and resilience.
The global holding company for luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Tiffany and Co., and more, LVMH recently unveiled its LIFE 360 environmental strategy that aims to preserve biodiversity and climate while engaging stakeholders. The initiative outlines specific, traceable targets for the coming years of 2023, 2026 and 2030, and that includes: creating eco-conscious products with “creative circularity,” including alternative materials and supply chains that support the transition; the end of sourcing from deforestation areas and regenerating areas where brands have already taken from; and all employees will receive environmental training, in partnership with suppliers, to ensure responsible practices will be done.
Whether they’re product focused, operations and supply chain focused, or even socially and humanely focused, these initiatives show that brands are committed to reducing and reversing their negative impact on the planet. But without much real legal push, it’s up to us, the consumers, to hold them accountable. Time will surely tell.
Head over to our Instagram post below and let us know what you think about these pledges and what brands you’d like to see take similar actions.
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