Exploration is defined as the act of searching or traveling a terrain for the purpose of discovery. For The North Face, it defines our raison d’être. In scientific research, exploration is the attempt to develop an understanding. We have to explore together this concept of sustainability and to act on our understanding — incomplete as it may be.   — Lizzy Hawker, The North Face athelete
  • Todd Spaletto explains why sustainability is part of our heritage
  • Our global reach
  • Sustainability Manager Adam Mott explains our program philosophy
  • Key sustainability data in one handy table
  • Five areas are critical for our sustainability program
  • A formal stakeholder session provides valuable feedback
“Our products are built to last a long time thus reducing their impact on the environment. From there, our sustainability philosophy is to focus on our largest volume materials to create the greatest environmental benefit. In addition to incorporating recycled and renewable content in our products, we are implementing the bluesign® standard, a system for managing chemical inputs and resource efficiency in the supply chain. ” — Philip Hamilton, Vice-President of Product
  • We work with the bluesign® standard to reduce supply chain impacts
  • We build products that last and that have a lifetime warranty
  • We use castor oil to replace petroleum-derived materials in our Venture Line of apparel
  • Almost 42,000 plastic bottles were incorporated into our 2010 Denali fleece collection
  • We are reevaluating our approach to sourcing cotton
  • Our internal Product Rating Tool drives sustainable design
Our passion for the outdoors inspires us to preserve the well-being of our planet. We believe that few issues affect The North Face as deeply as climate change. Our athletes, customers and employees return from expeditions with stories of receding glaciers, decimated forests, unprecedented drought, and a natural world that is changing visibly. This has energized our efforts to minimize our environmental impact and to protect the earth for future generations.
  • Our athletes help us educate others on this issue
  • We are working to improve our progress against our GHG reduction goal
  • Our suppliers reduced GHG emissions by 3.1 million pounds in the manufacturing of our products
  • We offset 9,662 MT of GHG emissions, equivalent to keeping 1,895 cars off the road for a year
  • We joined with other forward-looking companies to support climate change policies through BICEP
Just as with any expedition we undertake, our goal is to leave no trace. On any journey, carrying less waste out starts with bringing less in, using durable materials, and reusing and repurposing as much as possible. In keeping with this philosophy, we are committed to eliminating waste and inefficiencies in our operations, manufacturing, packaging, and in our day-to-day activities. Here’s what we’re working on:
  • Creating a culture of sustainability helps reduce office waste
  • Follow our trail to paperless workbooks
  • Our Closed Loop Tote bags “close the loop” by using scrap fabric
  • We joined with TerraCycle to upcycle plastic polybags
  • A new recycling program proves successful
  • Watch the video about our supply chain water and wastewater work
At The North Face, our sense of community extends far beyond the walls of our offices. We ensure that our associates are motivated in their jobs and that the workers in our supply chain are treated fairly. We support the communities where we work and play and we partner with many organizations that share our mission to enable exploration. Our goal is to ignite a passion to preserve the natural world by enabling access to outdoor activities and building a sustainable connection between people and the planet.
  • Our mission to enable exploration expanded its reach with four new programs in 2010
  • Three athletes share their inspiring stories
  • We showcase our work with the Conservation Alliance and the Khumbu Climbing School
  • We have strong protocols in place to protect the workers in our supply chain
  • Our 2,080 associates are the source of our success
We are pleased to present our first public sustainability report. By providing this picture of where we are today and where we plan to go, we are engaging our stakeholders and upholding our commitment to transparency and corporate responsibility. We have followed the Global Reporting Initiative standards for a C Level Report. While much of this report leans heavily toward the achievements in our United States office, we also provide details on some of our global sustainability work.

  • Standard disclosures for the Global Reporting Initiative
The North Face 2010 Sustainability Report: Sourcing

We work with the bluesign® standard to reduce supply chain impacts.

Our rapidly growing engagement with bluesign technologies is the cornerstone of our efforts to drive improvements in our supply chain. The bluesign® standard is a rigorous, independent system to ensure that factories address harmful chemicals at the fabric level and meet demanding requirements for consumer and worker safety, efficient resource use and environmental protection. The bluesign® system also requires that mills meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), the European REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals) protocols and all other relevant requirements.

We have aggressive goals for increasing the percentage of bluesign® approved fabric we develop each season and aim to convert 65% of our fabric to the bluesign® standard by 2015. Our approach has always been to prioritize our high volume fabrics and our largest suppliers to create the greatest and most immediate impact.

Adam Mott, Sustainability Manager“We create shared value by helping our mill partners reduce their environmental impacts and costs, making them more attractive partners to apparel companies demanding sustainable materials. In return, the mills help us provide more environmentally responsible products for our customers and indirectly mitigate price increases through resource efficiency. They also understand that we award our business preferentially to mills that are bluesign® system partners, so they are investing in a long-term relationship with us.”
— Adam Mott, Corporate Sustainability Manager

In addition to working with our primary suppliers, we aggressively worked to influence additional supply chain partners to engage with the bluesign® system in 2010. These included trim, synthetic insulation, down insulation, buckles, cording, webbing, and seam tape companies. Next, we will work to bring our thread, label, footwear, and equipment materials partners into the bluesign® system.


Sourcing with the bluesign® standard

* Our 2011 collections are designed and ordered in 2010 so we are able to report
2011 product data in this report.


Peter Waeber, CEO, bluesign technologies, describes how the bluesign® standard works:

“The apparel industry has a history of very serious environmental problems. When textile manufacturing moved in a short timeframe from Europe and the United States to Asia, the know-how was not transferred along with the orders. Suddenly we had people making the same fabric using twice the amount of water, with poor quality wastewater treatment and air emissions and with a difficult life for their workers. This was often occurring in countries without strong regulatory programs and in water-scarce areas.

When I first launched the bluesign® standard ten years ago, we were focused on resource efficiency and optimization but we soon realized we had to start by eliminating harmful chemicals at the earliest stage of the process. To protect workers and consumers, we have developed our own risk-based list of over 900 substances. We prohibit some processes and chemicals (rated black), allow others with special process controls (these are grey — such as for performance fabrics) and allow outright those classified as blue. This is much easier than trying to remove a chemical once it is in a fabric

We give each mill a detailed, individualized assessment that allows them to compare their energy and water use per kilogram of fabric to that of a mill using Best Available Technology. One manufacturer was using 680 liters while another used 30 liters by weight to produce the same shirt. Continuous dyeing uses 4 liters of water instead of 200+ liters. Usually the savings are huge. In places where the owners may not be as sensitive to environmental concerns, the financial savings usually sway them.

Sometimes we have trouble getting mills to work with us. We do a very comprehensive assessment with our experts on-site for the screening; the whole process takes approximately two and a half months. Then they do another re-screening once mills have implemented our standards and are ready to certify their articles. The cost of participating varies depending on the complexity and amount of chemicals involved. Even though the payback period for this fee and for any equipment upgrades is usually only three months, there are no guarantees and the initial cost remains a barrier for some.

“Success came with our partnership with The North Face, one of the biggest companies we work with. They have the big orders and they have the power to make things happen in the supply chain. They are helping us expand into more mills and generate even more improvements.”
— Peter Waeber, CEO, bluesign technologies

bluesign® savings

While the data gathered from bluesign technologies’ work with textile mills is confidential, we have an agreement that gives us aggregated data from our bluesign® screened suppliers. This allows us to track the impact of the program from year to year. We are extremely proud of the environmental savings we have realized as a result of implementing this system — a testament to our strategy of identifying and addressing our biggest impacts first.

Supply Chain Environmental Savings for Our Products

2010 and 2011*

* Our 2011 collections are determined in 2010 and thus this data can be included in our 2010 report.
** Conversion factors per U.S. DOE and U.S. EPA
*** Average tanker truck volume = 500 gallons

bluesign® savings videos

To learn more about how we save resources and eliminate chemicals in our supply chain, please watch the three short videos below.

Read on: Durable Products