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Making Strides on Our Renewable Energy Promise

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Making Strides on Our Renewable Energy Promise

July 19, 2016

By Letitia Webster, Vice President, Global Corporate Sustainability 

Solving the very real problem of climate change isn’t a simple fix. It won’t happen overnight. But we at VF Corporation are committed to supporting the effort and seeing it happen.

Last December, we pledged to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 at our owned and operated facilities —approximately 2,000 of them in over 75 countries, including our manufacturing plants, distribution centers, retail stores and corporate offices. 

Letitia Webster
Letitia Webster, Vice President,
Global Corporate Sustainability

It’s a bold commitment. And it will take a continuum of options to succeed, ranging from basic energy efficiency efforts, to investing in our own renewable energy projects, to procuring renewable energy in deregulated markets, to power purchasing agreements and renewable energy credits.

We’ve already started on this journey. I’m proud to say that we’ve reduced our energy use and shrunk our carbon footprint significantly in recent years. In 2011 we set a goal to reduce our carbon by 5 percent in five years. We surpassed that goal and saved more than $25 million in the process. This is proof that we have the people, systems and desire across our global company to achieve (and often exceed) our sustainability goals.

Since we presently buy most of our energy from utilities, we took another important step in May 2016 by signing the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, along with other leading brands such as Facebook, Ford, Gap Inc., Google, Hilton Hotels, Lockheed Martin, McDonalds, P&G, IKEA, Starbucks, Target and Nestle. The Buyers’ Principles is a joint initiative between World Resources Institute, the World Wildlife Fund and the Renewable Buyers Alliance to help scale and expedite the transition to renewable energy in the U.S. It provides a unified business voice to the utilities, regulators and service providers and a set of principles outlining our desire for greater choices in the options we have to procure renewable energy.

We have already converted a number of our facilities to renewable energy sources. In our Visalia, California, distribution center, roughly 25 percent of the energy is powered by solar panels, saving the equivalent of more than 585 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. Our international headquarters in Stabio, Switzerland, uses 100 percent renewable energy, 10 percent of which comes from solar panels. In Germany, half of our facilities purchase 100 percent renewable energy. The rest is purchased from external renewable sources, including hydroelectric and wind. Our Outdoor and Action Sports headquarters in Alameda, California, home to The North Face®, Lucy® and JanSport® brands, are powered by 100 percent renewable energy and often are net positive, selling excess back into the grid for profit. These are only a few examples and we are actively pursuing additional projects.  

At VF, we are vocal advocates for the change our planet needs. We believe addressing climate change starts with strong policy and commitments from stakeholders. That’s why we joined more than 150 companies by taking the American Business Act on Climate Pledge ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris. We also attended the conference to lend our support to the 195 world leaders negotiating for a strong agreement. The Paris Agreement, signed April 22, 2016, was truly historic. It was and is the first time that nearly every country in the world has committed to aggressive climate policies. I’m immensely proud that VF could participate in that conversation.

Inevitably, there are constraints and challenges. In the U.S., each state and region has different policies and programs we will have to navigate. Internationally, there are many unknowns about how various countries will transition to renewable energy. It will take time to get to the right answers, but I’m confident we are asking the right questions and working with the right partners.

Some of the hardest work is still ahead as we push toward our goals. However, we are building a solid roadmap to bring our renewable energy promise to life – for everyone around the world. We will continue to update our stakeholders as we progress, so check back and stay tuned.

Letitia Webster is VF’s Vice President of Global Corporate Sustainability. Sustainability is one of VF’s powerful global business platforms, which provide shared enabling capabilities across the company’s brands. Webster transferred to VF’s global headquarters in 2011 from The North Face brand, where she where she was responsible for the strategic marketing group and sustainability teamWebster holds a bachelor's degree in Business and Environmental Policy from Bowling Green State University and a master’s degree from Bainbridge Graduate Institute.