North Face Cuts GHGs 7.5%

by | Nov 30, 2011

The North Face reduced its GHG emissions by 7.5 percent in 2010, from 0.303 MT to 0.281 MT CO2e per thousand units sold, according to the company’s first public sustainability report.

The company has also reduced GHG emissions by 9.3 percent per unit sold from a 2008 baseline, and says it is on track for a 25 percent reduction by 2013. The North Face also says it is working to reduce its absolute GHG emissions.

In 2010 the company once again offset 100 percent of its emissions, and for the first time included Internet shipping in the offset activities.

Parent company VF Corporation measured and reported its global greenhouse gas emissions for the first time in 2010. North Face said that most of its operations outside North America are co-located with other VF brands, making emissions measurement complicated, but said it is developing a methodology to address this and will launch a new global data management tool in 2012.

On a more granular level, the report said that GHG emissions from the North Face’s U.S. distribution center and headquarters fell in 2010, while emissions from its showroom, retail stores and outlets rose. The company said the decreases reflect energy efficiency improvements as well as investment in a 1 MW solar power system at the distribution center. This year the center is initiating a lighting project projected to yield almost $150,000 in annual savings. In 2012, The North Face plans to move to a new campus that it is designing to LEED Gold standards.

It said the rising emissions for retail outlets were driven by an increase in locations, from 24 in 2008 to 34 in 2010. A study that the company commissioned in 2010 identified eight stores where significant reductions could be achieved by focusing on lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC), and employee engagement.

But The North Face’s life cycle assessment studies have confirmed that the majority of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its products occur during the material production and manufacturing phase. The company says it works with dozens of factories on a contract basis, and does not track this information as part of its global greenhouse gas inventory – at least in part due to the difficulty of calculating emissions when factories work with many different brands.

Instead, the company says, it is working with the Bluesign standard to reduce suppliers’ energy consumption. This system aims to improve factories’ resource efficiency and eliminate harmful chemicals at the earliest stage of the process.

In 2010, the initiative led some of The North Face’s largest suppliers to achieve a reduction of 3,281 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing of its materials. The company has a goal of 65 percent Bluesign-approved fabric, up from 27 percent this year.

In addition to working with primary suppliers, The North Face says last year it aggressively worked to influence additional supply chain partners, including makers of trim, synthetic insulation, down insulation, buckles, cording, webbing, and seam tape, to engage with the system. Next, it plans to bring thread, label, footwear, and equipment materials partners into the system.

In 2011 the company’s recycled fabric content was up to seven percent, from six percent in 2010. It aims for 30 percent by 2015.

In 2010 The North Face reduced its office waste by four percent, a 30 percent total reduction from a 2008 baseline, sending 43.7 tons to landfill. The company aims to reduce waste-to-landfill from its U.S. headquarters by 50 percent, from the 2008 baseline, by 2015.

It has started a new program to expand the recycling of its plastic bag packaging, used to protect products during shipping and distribution. The North Face uses more than 28 million polybags a year.

Early this year, 19 of its retail stores began sending their used polybags to TerraCycle to be upcycled into products such as plastic lumber, bike racks, and reusable shopping bags, with 221,836 bags recycled through the end of September 2011. The company is aiming for one million bags by the end of the year.

In 2010 The North Face optimized packaging infrastructure to pack more units per carton and says it is working increasingly with freight companies that use trucks running on environmentally preferable liquefied or compressed natural gas.

The brand says a major focus in 2011 will be improving its transportation data infrastructure by extending its use of the GT Nexus System, which links to electronic information from carriers, around the globe.

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