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: Reporting

Our first public sustainability report provides a picture of where we are today and where we plan to go.


To establish a solid baseline, this report primarily covers 2010 but we also disclose information on key events in 2008 and 2009 as context for our more recent initiatives. We have also included some events that occurred in early 2011, and have noted that in the text. As our product line is determined at least one year in advance, we have been able to report product-related data for 2011.

As The North Face is a global brand with offices in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Asia, it is a challenge to do justice to the creative work being done in each of these locations. While much of this report leans heavily toward the achievements in the United States office, we have included information from the other regions as well. Sustainability is a newer initiative for our Asian office and we anticipate that our next report will contain more information on their programs.

Global Reporting Initiative

This report follows the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G3 Guidelines — C Application Level. The GRI Reporting Framework, developed through a global, multi-stakeholder process, establishes a set of guidelines and performance indicators that organizations can use to measure and report their economic, environmental, and social performance. This global standard ensures comparability and transparency in corporate reporting and is used by over 1,700 organizations worldwide. In our next report, we will tackle the additional indicators in GRI’s Apparel and Footwear Sector Supplement, which is currently available in pilot version.  We have a long way to go but will provide a deeper look at our brand with each new report.

GRI Content Index  

Standard Disclosures

Only “C” Disclosures are listed. Additional disclosures were not addressed and are not listed.


Statement from the most senior decision-maker of the organization. See “Basecamp: Letter from the President” and  “Fair Labor: CEO Letter.”

2.1 – 2.7

Organization Profile. See “Company Overview.”

Contact information:
The North Face,
2013 Farallon Drive San Leandro, CA 94577 United States


Scale of reporting organization. See “Company Overview” and “Building a Great Team.”


Significant changes during the reporting period regarding size, structure, or ownership. See mention of new retail stores in “Company Overview and increase in employees in “Building a Great Team.


Awards received in the reporting period.

2010 Awards


Given By

Given To

Best Supplier to do Business With


The North Face

Gear of the Year (Best Technical Jacket)

Men’s Journal

Kishtwar Jacket

Best New Gear 2010

National Geographic Adventure

Kishtwar Jacket

Gear of the Year 2010

Feed the Habit (blog)

Short Sleeve Flex Crew

Gear of the Year 2010

Running and Rambling (blog)

Men’s Apex Climateblock Jacket

#1 Top Gear Pick

Gear Junkie

Animagi Jacket

ISPO Outdoor Award 2010


Kishtwar Jacket

Editor’s Pick

Transworld Snowboarding


Editor’s Choice


Trajectory Hybrid

Most Affordable Down Bag



Best Debut 2010

Runner’s World

Single-Track Shoe

Gear of the Year 2010


Single-Track Shoe

Editor’s Pick 2010


Base Camp Duffel

Most Stable Pack


El Lobo 65

Killer Value


Backtrack 50

Outdoor Industry Award 2010

OutDoor Show: Friedrichshafen

Verto Jacket

Outdoor Industry Award 2010

OutDoor Show: Friedrichshafen

Triumph Anorak

Outdoor Industry Award 2010

OutDoor Show: Friedrichshafen

HydroShock SE (EUROPE)

Best Backpack for Adults & College Students



Adventurer of the Year

National Geographic

Athlete Alex Honnold

David Brower Conservation Award

American Alpine Club

Athlete Conrad Anker


Reporting period. The report covers calendar year 2010.


Date of most recent previous report.  This is our first public sustainability report.


Reporting cycle.

We anticipate that our next report will cover two years and will be released in 2013.


Contact point for questions regarding the report or its contents.  

We invite feedback on this report at expeditionsustainability@vfc.com.


Process for defining report content. See “Focus Areas,” “Stakeholder Engagement,” and “Reporting.”

3.6 and 3.7

Report Boundary and Limitations. While the report aims to provide a comprehensive picture of sustainability commitments across our global operations, many of the GRI reporting metrics are only reported for our United States operations. The North Face Asia-Pacific and The North Face EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) operate more closely with and are physically housed with other VF Outdoor Coalition brands, creating difficulties in extracting metrics exclusively related to The North Face in those locations. Therefore, for the purposes of reporting against the GRI guidelines, our reporting boundary is defined by our U.S. operations. Regarding energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission initiatives, we worked closely with the former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Climate Leaders Program to develop our GHG reduction goal and strategies. Thus, the reporting boundary for our energy and GHG work is our U.S. operations. We have provided global information throughout the report, wherever possible, to provide a clearer picture of our work and our brand commitments.  We plan to provide a global report in 2012.


Basis for reporting on joint ventures, subsidiaries, leased facilities, outsourced operations, and other entities that can significantly affect comparability of the indicators and other information in the report.We noted our plans to move our headquarters to a new location in 2012, which will affect comparability of energy data. We add retail locations annually and note the number of these new facilities.


Explanation of any re-statements of information provided in earlier reports, and the reasons for such re-statement. None.


Significant changes from previous reporting period. None.


GRI Content Index. This is contained in this section.


Governance.  See “Company Overview.”


Memberships (optional disclosure for C-level report)


The North Face supports and partners with dozens of organizations that share our goals of improving the environmental and social responsibility of our industry or that support our mission to enable outdoor exploration. The organizations that we support through membership are listed below. Also see "Giving Back."


bluesign technologies

Bonneville Environmental Foundation


Ceres-BICEP (Businesses for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy)

Conservation Alliance

Conservation Fund: Go Zero

European Outdoor Group

Global Giving

International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA)

Outdoor Industry Association

Outdoor Industry Association Eco Working Group

Sustainable Apparel Coalition


Textile Exchange

4.14 and 4.15

Stakeholder engagement. See “Stakeholder Engagement.”

Performance Indicators

A “C” level GRI report must report on a minimum of ten Performance Indicators, including at least one from each of: social, economic, and environment.


Financial implications and other risks and opportunities for the organization’s activities due to climate change.

Risks: Climate change-related cost increases due to Cap and Trade schemes and energy and fuel taxes could affect transportation, fertilizer, fuel and petroleum ingredients (such as for polyester). Climate change-related regulations and the French requirement for Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)will likely result in increased operational costs for environmental life cycle assessments and other required product studies.

The North Face is addressing regulatory risks associated with cap and trade through our membership and participation in Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), a project of Ceres. This organization works to design and introduce climate and energy policy that will prepare businesses for the risks associated with climate change. We have studied the life cycle environmental impacts of some of our products to identify areas where we can reduce our impact. We also have a greenhouse gas emission goal for our U.S. operations as well as other strategies to help us reduce our energy use and thus our vulnerability to cost increases.

Physical changes due to climate change may also present risks for The North Face. Changing precipitation patterns could affect the yield, quality, and price of cotton, which we use in a small number of styles. Changes in precipitation could also affect the tourism industry. Winter apparel and gear comprise a significant category of our product portfolio. If climate change results in less snow or warmer winters (i.e. shorter snow skiing seasons), we could see a decreased demand for our products. Sea-level rise also presents concerns as many of our suppliers, such as those in Taiwan and Bangladesh, are located close to sea level and their operations could be disrupted.  Ports used for ocean shipping and distribution may also be affected by sea level rise, which could add disruptions in our supply chain.

Our products are designed for the outdoor consumer who is increasingly concerned with the environmental impacts of the products they use and the environmental responsibility of the companies from which they purchase goods. If we fail to address our greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts, it could damage our reputation with our consumers. The North Face has conducted studies to better understand how our customers and audience perceive our brand and our relationship to sustainability, and how environmental aspects are considered in their purchasing decisions. These studies have identified actions that we are now taking to protect our brand and to meet or exceed customer expectations. This sustainability report is one way that we are conveying our sustainability work to a variety of audiences.

Opportunities: Climate change may also present some opportunities for our business. The North Face sells outdoor apparel that can be used by our customers to adapt to various extreme weather circumstances (cold, heat, rain, snow, etc.). If climate change causes an increase in extreme weather throughout the globe, this could increase demand for our outdoor apparel.  We believe that changes in consumer preference towards more environmentally responsible products present an opportunity for us to develop a competitive advantage. Much of the work we describe in this report illustrates our commitment to reducing the environmental impact of our products and holding ourselves to the highest standards of corporate responsibility. We have also been proactive in contributing to the development of sustainable apparel protocols and indices for use in improving the environmental impact of apparel as well as the quality and consistency of reporting environmental metrics associated with products. In the event that regulations require product environmental labeling, we expect that many of our products will compare favorably with our competitors’ products based on our work to date.


Percentage of materials used that are recycled input materials. See “Recycled Content.”


Initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reductions achieved. See “Climate”.


Total weight of waste by weight and disposal method.  See “Waste.”

EN 23

Total number and volume of significant spills.  None.

EN 26

Initiatives to mitigate environmental impacts of products and services, and extent of impact mitigation.  See “Product.”

EN 28

Monetary value of significant fines and total number of non-monetary sanctions for non-compliance with environmental laws and regulations. The North Face paid $207,500 in 2010 to settle a claim by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that shoes advertised to kill bacteria were never tested. While disputing the EPA’s assertions, The North Face immediately ceased making the marketing claims in question when EPA first raised the issue in 2008. The EPA claimed that although the shoes contained substances categorized as registered pesticides, they were never tested and so the health claims were unsubstantiated.


Total number and rate of employee turnover by age group, gender, and region.



Diversity Among U.S. Associates, 2010


% Corporate

% Retail







African American






Native American



Asian / Pacific Islander






Not specified



# of Director or above



% Male at Director level or above



% Female at Director level or above



Baby boomer (>45 years)



Gen X (31–45 years)



Gen Y (≤30 years)



Baby boomer hires



Gen X hires



Gen Y hires



Males hires



Female hires



Baby boomer terminations



Gen X terms



Gen Y terms



Male terms



Female terms




Average hours of training per year per employee by employee category. See “Building a Great Team.”


Composition of governance bodies and breakdown of employees per category according to gender, age group, minority group membership and other indicators of diversity.  See “Company Overview” and “Building a Great Team.”  LA1, above, addresses diversity among United States associates.


Percentage and total number of significant investment agreements that include human rights clauses or that have undergone human rights screening. 100% of our suppliers agreed to16 Global Compliance Principles, which contain human rights principles. See “Fair Labor.”

Read on: Back to the Beginning!