VF Corporation introduced its first traceability program in 2017. This week, the Supreme owner revealed that it has successfully mapped the origins of more than 100 footwear and apparel items from brands including The North Face, Dickies, Vans and Timberland.
Tracing upstream supply chains helps document each step on a product’s journey from the farm to final destination. As of December, the Denver-based company has created traceability maps for best-selling items from 11 brands that consumers can view on VF’s corporate website.
Consumers’ growing awareness around fashion and sustainability has forced brands to re-examine supplier relationships beyond tier one producers, VF said.
“Complete traceability goes beyond the factories that produce our goods,” it said. “It starts at a farm, ranch or a facility where raw materials used in our products are grown, extracted and sourced,” from cotton to wool, leather, rubber and polyester.
Traceability mapping gives VF a deeper understanding of how these raw materials are processed, and how they impact the environment and the communities where they are farmed. The company turned data gleaned through supplier outreach, surveys and research into each product’s unique map.
Now VF can identify areas of concern, such as sourcing in areas vulnerable to deforestation or low water efficiency. The maps incorporate information on human rights at each factory, noting benefits like health and safety measures as well as community development programs.
“The maps allow us to then take a critical look at our processes and adjust as needed,” VF said. “This particular act of tracing identifies problems we may have not been able to see at the surface, while uncovering issues and allowing us to address them.”
The traceability pilot’s 2017 launch has already led to sourcing policy changes. Two years ago, the company severed ties with a leather supplier in Brazil over lackluster environmental standards. VF said it will not resume the relationship until the producer can prove that its tanneries don’t harm the surrounding ecology. In October, it said all of its leather now comes from Leather Working Group certified factories, and is working to transition to regenerative or responsibly sourced hides.
VF is now trying to trace its virgin and recycled polyester with a focus on fair labor standards. It currently sources 24 percent of its polyester from recycled inputs, aiming to cut virgin poly usage by 50 percent.
“Sharing these maps validates the sustainability of our brands and solidifies our mission,” VF said. Traceability maps gives consumers peace of mind while holding brands accountable for advancing sustainability goals.
“By 2030, our goal is to create a purpose-led supply chain, only partnering with producers who meet our standards, and have 100 percent of our materials be recycled, regenerative or responsibly sourced,” it added.
While the recent milestone of completing 100 traceability maps completes the firm’s three-year goal, VF said the program will encompass more products and suppliers moving forward.
It is “just the beginning,” the company added, “as we continue to drive the industry and ourselves to do even more.”