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Essay: VFC Minimizes Impact of Deforestation

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On Feb. 27, the VF Corporation released its first ever policy for the purchasing and use of sustainable forest materials and products.

In late Feb. VF announced that in an effort to help end deforestation, or at least lessen the effects, VF released the Forest Derived Materials Policy. This policy is an official guide for the company’s purchasing preferences and use of sustainable forest materials and products. The company is trying to avoid concerns related to deforestation and forest degradation.

The VF Corporation specializes in lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories. VFC is the parent company of brands including Timberland, The North Face, Vans, and Lee and Wrangler jeans.

The policy stresses the use of recycled fiber products to be used whenever possible. It also emphasizes the use of Forest Stewardship Council certified paper and fiber. The elevation of all third-party forestry management certification systems is important to VF as well.

The Forest Stewardship Council website states that the FSC is “an independent, non-profit organization that protects forests for future generations.” They set the standards for treating forests responsibly.

“Deforestation and forest degradation continues to be a global issue affecting climate change and human rights.” Letitia Webster, VF’s Vice President of Global Corporate Sustainability, said. “This policy provides clear guidance across our many purchasing categories and it enables us to play our part in protecting the world’s forest.”

Under this policy specific brands owned by The VF corporation are changing up how they produce goods. Last year, Timberland produced many new sourcing policies that they plan to put into effect by 2020. Some of these new sourcing policies include having at least one renewable, natural or reused component in all of its footwear, using only cotton that is certified organic by BCI or originating from America, and purchasing leather that is certified silver or gold by the Leather Working Group.

Another company owned by The VF Corporation, The North Face, says that they would like to integrate more recycled plastic into its synthetic materials. They would also like to cut down on the use of water, chemicals and energy during its manufacturing. Vans is also trying to become eco-friendly. They have begun to include more BCI cotton in their shoes, as well as adopted the use of the Higg index released by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The Higg index is a sustainability measurement tool used to measure the impact apparel company’s products have across the value chain.

These companies are helping to save forests because there are many terrible effects that come from deforestation. By destroying rainforests, or forests in general, humans are taking away ecosystems full of animals and plants. Some forests also are homes to indigenous people, and demolishing the forests gives them no place to live.

According to Valuation and Sustainable Use of Tropical Rainforest by T. Ghillean Prance, rainforests store an enormous amount of carbon as well and to destroy it would increase global warming by further depleting the ozone layer.

VF has additionally partnered with Canopy, a not-for-profit, non-governmental environmental organization. Canopy is dedicated to protecting forests, species, and the climate. The materials that are used by Canopy to produce products include pulp and paper products that are made from straw, recycled paper and synthetic fibers derived from sources other than wood.

Many companies are beginning to use more environmentally friendly products and support the CanopyStyle initiative. Some of these companies include Stella McCartney, Levi Strauss & Co., Marks & Spencer, Quiksilver and over 60 other brands. The CanopyStyle initiative is working to eliminate the use of endangered and older forests in the manufacture of forest derived fabrics from the apparel and fashion industries by the end of 2017.

“When an apparel giant like VF expands its forest commitment with a policy like this, it adds incredible momentum to global forest conservation and climate efforts.” Nicole Rycroft, Executive Director of Canopy, said. “From hang tags, to packaging, to fabrics, some of America’s favorite global brands are protecting the world’s forests and the species that call them home.”

In 2016, VF announced that it had reduced its global carbon emissions by 12% between 2011 and 2015. The goal that the company set was 5% and it was well-surpassed.

Not only did they reduce their carbon emissions, they have started to source their cotton certified by the Better Cotton Initiative. In 2013, the company reached their goal of sourcing 1% of their cotton and by 2015 they tripled that goal. This may not seem like much but VF says that their company alone purchases 1% of the world’s cotton.

The VF Corporation continues to stride toward cutting down on the demolition of forests and incorporating more renewable resources and recycled products into their manufacturing process.

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