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VF Corp. Touts CSR Initiatives as Good for Business

VF Corp. wants to take the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility to new heights.

As one of the largest apparel and footwear companies in the world, VF said it has a responsibility to help build a better future for the industry, company, employees and the communities where it operates.

VF said it strongly believes that an actively engaged local citizen is good for both the community and business. For this reason, employees give their time and experience to volunteer in the local community. Each region and brand creates their own programs based upon community needs and employee desires.

In a report released Wednesday, the company highlighted the many initiatives and projects the company and its employees have undertaken in the areas of sustainability, the environment and community relations.

VF noted that it encourages and empowers associates to get involved in initiatives in the communities where they live, work and play. In 2016, 1,600 EMEA employees from VF’s corporate headquarters and its brands volunteered more than 15,000 hours in their local communities.

“We are happy and proud to see so many of our employees rally to support the various projects, dedicating an entire day to the community,” said Anna Maria Rugarli, senior director of sustainability and CSR for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “Our VF Community Days are part of a series of voluntary initiatives that our group organizes all over the world to support the communities where we work.”

Some examples of the projects include VF Community Day in Ticino, where for three days this week hundreds of VF Corp. employees of volunteer their time to support local environmental and social causes and charities in the Swiss city. This followed a VF Community Day in Pederobba, Italy, on April 6, when, in celebration of Earth Day, employees supported the Italian League for Bird Protection.

In the My Playgreen by Timberland program, the Timberland brand has teamed up with the King Baudouin Foundation to create a grant program supporting the creation, maintenance and improvement of greenspaces in five European cities over the course of five years. In March, My PlayGreen funded 14 projects across London. In May, it was launched in Milan, where it will provide grants for local grassroots projects to improve access to green spaces for children of all backgrounds.

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Last year, VF partnered with London-based NGO PhotoView PVCL Creative Learning Company to help support at-risk students in gaining vital skills to help them get work. The initiative, #VFit targeted students between the ages of 16 and 20 who were at risk of falling behind or dropping out of mainstream education. A total of 16 students have completed a range of photography, film, editing and writing tasks, as well as creating a real-life business brief with support from specially-trained VF store managers who served as business coaches.

Sustainability and environmental responsibility are also an integral part of VF’s operations.

The company feels focusing on sustainability is key to the overall growth of the business in a responsible manner, from the way products are made to projects preserving environmental resources.

[Read more about the focus on sustainability: Sustainability Stays Key Issue for Makers at Kingpins NY]

VF recently announced several initiatives supporting the environment. They include a commitment to source 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 and releasing its first Forest Derived Materials Policy that sets guidelines for the company’s purchasing preferences and use of sustainable forest materials and products. VF’s forestry policy aims to avoid the issues associated with deforestation and forest degradation, such as the loss of ancient and endangered forests, loss of biodiversity and habitat, use of forced labor in making forestry products and loss of indigenous peoples and local community rights.

VF also released its Animal Derived Materials Policy in which it declared its brand will no longer use fur, angora or exotic leather in their products. The progressive new policy, developed in partnership with The Humane Society, outlines which animal materials are prohibited and sets formal guidelines for the procurement and use of approved materials by the company’s brands and global supply chain partners.

VF signed a commitment letter during the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in May to define a circular strategy, agreeing to set targets for 2020 and to report on the progress of implementing the commitment. The company is committed to being a part of a fashion industry that can lead the transition to a circular system that restores and regenerates materials while offering new opportunities for innovative design, increased customer engagement and the capturing of economic value.

VF brands launched an in-store take back initiative to recycle and extend the lifecycle of clothing and footwear, including “Clothes the Loop” by The North Face, “Second Chance” by Timberland and “Skate and Donate” by Vans.

VF, which has annual revenue $12.4 billion, has 62,000 employees around the world.