Could circularity in business protect the planet and people?



Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by VF Corporation.

Imagine if your favorite hiking shoes, t-shirts, and other clothing could give back to the world more than they took.

What if the wool, leather, rubber, or cotton in your boots and t-shirts were produced from regenerative agriculture that captures atmospheric carbon dioxide, while manufacturing met greenhouse gas emissions targets? greenhouse aligned with the Paris Agreement? What if all the materials in your products come from regenerative, renewable or recycled materials? And everyone in the global supply chain – from farmers and factory workers and their communities to workers in suppliers, distribution centers and stores – has been treated with dignity, equality and respect for human rights. man and diversity?

As the apparel industry strives to mitigate our impact, these boots envision how we should expand our quest for sustainability to protect and support both our planet and the people we depend on for our products.

We are all aware that sustainability is the future. We recognize the pitfalls of fast fashion. Consumers are more aware of the products they buy. Investors, shareholders, analysts and regulators are more concerned about the environmental and social risks of public enterprises.

Smart clothing manufacturers are responding. Many are shifting from the traditional, linear, unsustainable “take, make and waste” business model to a sustainable circular design.

For example, consider the opportunity to design products made from recycled materials with less virgin raw materials, to last longer, be recycled and possibly refurbished for resale. Rather than simply eliminating them, companies are looking at the end of life of products, how they would be dismantled and reincarnated into new products to buy or rent.

“Circularity” may seem like the latest fad and buzzword in the environment. To make it meaningful, evolve circularity and make it the business standard of the future, we need greater industry engagement at all levels, leading with purpose and values, and demonstrated by a greater investment in training, testing and innovation.

As these visionary boots illustrate, a true sustainability strategy goes beyond circularity to adopt a systems approach that considers the impact on every person and place in supply, operations and the supply chain. supply of a company, worldwide. It means finding opportunities every step of the way to make a positive impact and add value.

The Timberland boot range now includes recycled plastic and regenerating leather, among other circular materials.

For clothes to become truly sustainable, we need to focus on people, planet and products in an interconnected way. It starts with ensuring the safety and health of workers, the prevention of gender-based violence and other human abuses, freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and fair wages, and strict labor intolerance. children and forced labor.

By embracing a broader circularity that protects both the planet and people, the apparel industry can unlock new sources of revenue while striving to minimize its environmental impact – and model actions and outcomes for d ‘other industries by leveraging our scale for good.

Overall, sustainability comes down to responsibility – putting people and the planet before irresponsible profits. Goal and profit are not mutually exclusive. Quite the contrary: The goal and profit cycle can create continuous opportunities to leverage the business success that fuels and fulfills the goal, leading to responsible and sustainable profits.

Since “green laundering” can undermine public trust, sustainability also requires putting the proof on the promotion – do it first and talk later – and be publicly transparent and real about the impact. For some VF examples:

  • This year, VF partnered with the non-profit organization WaterAid to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to support the Cambodian government’s response plan to the pandemic, which has vaccinated more than 20,000 workers in factory and 300,000 citizens while providing essential hygiene products to more than 100,000 people in five provinces.
  • In 2020, the Timberland brand presented its first pair of regenerating leather boots.
  • A strong partnership with Soles4Souls has enabled brands Timberland and The North Face to divert 13 million tonnes of footwear and clothing from landfill and recycle the equivalent of over 380 million plastic bottles into Timberland footwear during our fiscal year 2020.
  • The North Face brand re-commerce platform allows customers to purchase high quality, lightly worn second life clothing that has saved 37,000 pounds of garments from the landfill over its lifetime. first year only.
  • Napapijri’s Circular Series Infinity Jacket – Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold – uses nylon thread made from discarded fishing nets and other waste.
  • The Smartwool brand has transformed nearly seven tonnes of wool waste into insulation for its Smartloft jackets. In the summer of 2021, Smartwool partnered with The New Zealand Merino Company and its sister brand, Icebreaker, launched the world’s first regenerative wool platform, ZQRX.
  • This year alone, The Timberland, Vans and The North Face brands have partnered with Terra Genesis International in Thailand to build the industry’s first regenerative rubber supply system. This supply system will grow to support other brands across and outside the industry.

VF’s recent sustainability and responsibility report, Made for Change, details its progress against its commitments and recognizes that large global companies have a greater capacity and responsibility to do more and lead by example. To this end, the report shows how the clothing industry can put the protection of people and the planet in a virtuous and profitable cycle.

The new business models of sustainability and circularity that the apparel industry needs can be disruptive. But we all also know that disruption, no matter how painful, spur creativity and innovation, which fuels success and growth. Which, in this case, responds not only to the urgent demand for climate action and human rights, but also to today’s consumer market that cares deeply about people and the planet.

These visionary boots have miles to go. But the destination is clearly worth the trip.

This article is sponsored by VF Corporation.

Images courtesy of VF Corporation


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