VF Corp recently launched its Environmental and Social Responsibility Report 2023, Purpose. Driven, which shares the company’s performance against its environmental sustainability, traceability and human rights targets as well as its inclusion, diversity, equity and action commitments.

The company has several projects in the pipeline aligning its ESG goals which it claims will contribute positively to the planet. This includes what the company says is the apparel and footwear industry’s largest renewable energy tax equity investment, funding the development of four utility-scale solar projects.

By FY22, VF says it achieved 80% of its target to source 50% recycled polyester by FY26 and completed the largest and “most efficient” distribution center to date in California, with LEED Gold certification for building design and construction.

In the report, CEO and president of VF Corp Bracken Darrell announced that, since sustainable materials is a key focus area in VF products, its key brands Vans, Timberland and The North Face will be launching new product collections featuring regeneratively-sourced natural rubber.

VF also says it continues to emphasise circular design with recent innovations including Smartwool, which is its first fully circular sock; the Second Cut Hike sock, made with repurposed yarn; and The North Face brand, which launched a new collection of Circular Design products.

Highlights from the report

  • Sourcing More Sustainable Materials: Sourcing of recycled polyester by VF increased to 40% in FY22. This is an improvement from 36% in FY21 and puts VF 80% of the way toward achieving its target to use 50% recycled polyester by FY26.
  • Investing in Traceability Across the Supply Chain: VF traced 72% of its wool supply chain from farm to finished product in FY23, marking continued progress against its goal to trace five key materials through all supply chain tiers by FY28.
  • Embedding Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action throughout VF: Several new initiatives and program enhancements launched around the globe in FY23 to foster belonging advocacy and allyship within VF. In the US, the representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) increased to 19.0% (up from 18.1% in FY22), in line with its goal to have 25% BIPOC representation at the director level and above in the US by 2030. Globally, women represented 42.3% of VF’s leadership community (up from 41.8% in FY22), with an aspiration of gender parity by 2030.
  • Uplifting Human Rights: The company’s worker and community development (WCD) program achieved over 80% of the near-team goal to improve the lives of 1 million workers and their communities by FY26 and 2 million people by FY31. As of FY23, VF’s WCD program has reached more than 823,000 people in 11 countries.

In recent years, the fashion apparel industry has undergone a transformative shift towards prioritising ESG factors. The imperative need to align practices with sustainability goals is even more crucial with the influx of ‘green’ laws on the rise holding companies and brands accountable.

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By GlobalData

Apparel company filings data for ‘ESG’ keyword (2016-2023)

Source: GlobalData

This is evident from company filings data shared by the data and analytics company GlobalData, which shows that ESG continues to be a domineering theme in the apparel industry since 2016.

The theme peaked in 2021 with 100,010 mentions. Even though mentions of ESG have dropped to 54,699 in 2023, it remains at the top, followed by themes like Environment and Governance, at 24,702 and 15,765 respectively.

The growing importance of ESG in the fashion apparel industry is a paradigm shift that goes beyond mere trends. It represents a commitment to sustainable practices, ethical conduct, and a heightened awareness of the industry’s impact on the environment and society.

In September 2023, a Global Fashion Agenda panel discussion titled ‘Exploring Fashion’s ESG concept’ revealed fashion companies can no longer focus solely on profit if they want to remain in operation.

CEO and president of sustainable capital markets firm Ceres Mindy Lubber argues environmental, social and governance issues have a profound impact on society as well as a financial impact on our industry with a Cornell study suggesting climate change will cost the fashion industry $65bn in the next seven years.

It seems the journey towards a truly sustainable fashion industry is underway, and ESG is at the forefront of this transformative movement.

Our signals coverage is powered by GlobalData’s Thematic Engine, which tags millions of data items across six alternative datasets — patents, jobs, deals, company filings, social media mentions and news — to themes, sectors and companies. These signals enhance our predictive capabilities, helping us to identify the most disruptive threats across each of the sectors we cover and the companies best placed to succeed.