Sustainability & Responsibility
Apr 22, 2020

Earth Day Reflections from VF Corporation CEO Steve Rendle

<p>Himalayan mountain range, India</p>

I hope this message finds you healthy and safe.  

Fifty years ago today, the first Earth Day was established to help raise public consciousness about the state of our planet. This special anniversary takes on even more significance given our current circumstances and reminds us again just how fragile our planet really is. 

We all understandably want things to return to the way they were before the virus outbreak. But this moment also affords us a unique opportunity to pause and consider how we can be even more intentional in the actions we take to protect the health and well-being of people and the planet we share.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a lot about the interconnected world we’ve shaped for ourselves. Among our many learnings is the stark realization that with human activity largely stopped around the world for the first time since the industrial age, our planet has received a much-needed break. Greenhouse gas emissions have drastically fallen. Air quality has dramatically improved across the globe and wildlife is returning to unexpected areas due to limited human activity.

What I find fascinating is the speed at which these environmental improvements are happening. When humans aren’t straining our planet’s resources, it can heal itself rather quickly. Nature is remarkable in that way. But this phenomenon also makes me recognize how fast we’re damaging our planet and how much it has endured from intense human activity and industrial output, every day for hundreds of years.

Since launching our VF purpose, we’ve been clear about our focus: to power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and our planet. It’s the last part of our purpose statement – people and our planet – that should remind us how incredibly important it is for us to live out this purpose during these unprecedented times and beyond.

People: With our people-first approach to managing this global health crisis, VF has taken actions that prioritize the health and safety of our associates and their families. At the same time, we’ve marshalled our resources to help others. The VF Foundation and our family of brands have made financial contributions to support COVID-19 relief efforts in hard-hit communities around the world. Our teams are manufacturing and procuring much-needed personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, and our brands are donating products to medical professionals and first responders where they can.

We’ve seen the toll this virus continues to have on people around the world, and we’re committed to doing our part to help improve the lives of those who are being impacted or are working to save the lives of others.

Planet: As we look to use our purpose for the betterment of our planet, our focus on climate change and protecting natural resources will take on even greater importance. If we, as humans, can step up and take globally coordinated measures to address the threat of COVID-19, why can’t we come together to reach solutions for climate change, which is the greatest challenge our planet faces? The threat may not seem as imminent as what we face today, but it is inevitable if we don’t change our ways.  

At VF, we’re already acting. With our Made for Change Sustainability & Responsibility strategy, we’ve set industry-leading Science Based Targets (SBTs) for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and have outlined a bold vision for the use of sustainable materials, among other goals. We are making great progress toward our 100 percent renewable energy goal for our direct operations, and today more than half of our distribution centers are zero-waste. Additionally, we’re working with our contract suppliers to identify ways to make their operations more energy efficient through renewable energy technologies.  

We’ve always been committed to environmental responsibility, but when we see what happens when our world gets to catch its breath, we hope that even more people will join the critical effort to protect our planet.

I never imagined we would celebrate Earth Day in today’s circumstances. But perhaps this is the wakeup call our world needed. I encourage all of us to fully appreciate what Earth Day represents; and take a moment to think about how each of us can be the positive change our planet needs. We have the ability, and the responsibility, to contribute to the betterment of people and our planet, not just right now as we confront our current global emergency, but also as we work to ensure the health and resilience of our planet for generations to come.  

As I’ve said before, this storm will pass. When it does, we will look back with pride in how we managed through it. And as we look to the future, let’s remember that our unwavering commitment to protecting our planet is more important than ever. Happy Earth Day everyone.

Thank you and be well.

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