VF Corp. released its first comprehensive Sustainability and Responsibility Report at the end of October, highlighting the achievements of VF and its brands for the three sustainability pillars – planet, products and people. The report also marked the public debut of CHEM-IQ, VF's innovative chemical management program. CHEM-IQ is said to provide a proactive and scalable method for identifying and eliminating potentially harmful chemicals before they enter the manufacturing process.
In the report, VF said it is on track to reduce its carbon emissions by 5 percent in 2015. About 98 percent of VF's primary energy currently comes from fossil fuels, and moving to renewable energy sources, while optimizing energy use, is a top priority. The company is already powering 31 of its facilities in part with renewable energy. In Germany, where it has achieved the greatest progress to date, half of its facilities purchase 100 percent renewable energy. VF spends more than $125 million annually on energy, fuel and business travel. Since 2009, it has reduced absolute electricity use by 4.5 percent and natural gas use by 2.8 percent at its manufacturing sites.
Water stewardship efforts are also underway across manufacturing and product development. In 2016, VF intends to complete a wide strategy on water-usage that will encompass its products' full life-cycles – from farm to factory to consumer use. In April 2013, the company implemented a new initiative to further improve water quality and ensure compliance with water standards. The program includes, among other elements, the adoption of Business for Social Responsibility's (BSR) Sustainable Water Guidelines, to ensure that water use and discharge to the surrounding community are conducted responsibly, no matter where a supplier facility is located. In the field of waste management, the company has completed a comprehensive waste audit, and by 2020, it has set the goal to reduce its waste to landfill by 40 percent.
Regarding its Products pillar, VF said its brands produce more than 1,500 eco-friendly styles, which make up 10 percent of total product sales. In addition, it has committed to using sustainable cotton for 3 percent of its total annual cotton sourced by 2015. Reducing harmful chemicals in the supply chain is key to responsible production processes. Chemicals are typically managed at their endpoints, when they are either released into air and water or end up in the final product, while they can instead be managed from the start, in the design phase and working through the supply chain. Through its new CHEM-IQ Program, VF seeks to achieve responsible chemical management throughout its supply chain by screening chemicals used by its suppliers. This new chemistry program was developed in partnership with the University of Leeds in England and the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the U.S., both known for their expertise in green chemistry, with strong support from the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), a non-profit international environmental advocacy group based in New York City, and Modern Testing Services, a global network of chemical laboratories. VF plans to expand the CHEM-IQ Program globally in 2015.
As for the People pillar, which involves supporting communities, VF said that in 2013 more than 14,000 of its associates volunteered their time for that purpose, while VF brands donated more than $10 million to charitable causes worldwide.
During the past two years, VF built an internal sustainability infrastructure optimized to serve its global scale and brands portfolio. A large part of this work has consisted in data collection and the development of sustainability scorecards to help benchmark the environmental footprints and social actions of its nearly 2,000 individual facilities.