Among the varied fronts where fashion brands are fighting for a sustainable future is packaging.
H&M Group, for example, announced in December it is replacing the plastic packaging it ships online orders in with a certified paper alternative. Hanesbrands plans to eliminate all single-use plastics and reduce packaging weight by 25 percent. Just last month, Los Angeles-based activewear brand Vuori unveiled a partnership with plastic recovery and recycling body Cleanhub that it said will remove 3 million plastic polybags from its supply chain this year.
VF Corp. joined them Tuesday, announcing plans to eliminate all single-use plastic packaging, including polybags, by 2025. Remaining non-plastic packaging used by VF and its brands will be reduced, originate from sustainable sources and be designed for reuse or recyclability, it added.
Before it reaches that point, VF, the home of brands including Timberland, The North Face and Vans, plans for all single-use plastics in product packing to be 100 percent recycled, bio-based content or a combination of both by 2023. The apparel, footwear and accessories conglomerate also plans to shift all its paper-based packaging to recycled content—a minimum of 80 percent, where performance allows—third-party-certified virgin content or a combination of the two by 2023.
As part of its new sustainable packaging roadmap, VF also said it will commit to leadership in “crucial industry coalitions and policy initiatives” to help build circular packaging infrastructure that will enable its 2025 pledge. The company noted its support for Canopy’s Pack4 Good effort. One of the initial 10 brands to join the initiative at its founding in 2019—other participants include Asos, H&M, Kontoor Brand, Reformation and Toms—VF has committed to not using materials from ancient and endangered forests in any of its paper packaging and reducing its overall forest fiber consumption for packaging.
“With a portfolio comprising some of the world’s most iconic apparel and footwear brands, we recognize we play an important role as environmental stewards and can serve as a catalyst for industry movements that drive positive change,” Jeannie Renné-Malone, vice president of global sustainability for VF, said in a statement. “Our new global packaging goals are an example of how we can leverage our scale for significant impact. In just one year, we could potentially eliminate as many as 100 million polybags from our packaging waste.”
Beyond packaging, VF has also introduced a suite of complementary guidelines and goals to support its commitment to minimizing waste. The company plans to eliminate all non-essential, single-use plastics for which there is a viable product alternative throughout its direct operations and from all company-sponsored events by 2023. It also plans to transition its owned distribution centers to be zero-waste by April 1, to “implement sustainability best practices” in its internal and external sponsored events and to work with retailers and industry peers to support the development of collection platforms and recycling technology.
Additionally, VF’s Icebreaker brand has set a goal of becoming plastic-free by 2023. Timberland has outlined a plan to have a net positive impact by 2030. The North Face’s Polybag Brigade recycling program, launched with TerraCycle in 2011, has recycled more than 5 million polybags to date, according to VF.
As part of its broader corporate sustainability and responsibility strategy, VF enhanced its traceability mapping program last month by disclosing Tier 1 through Tier 4 supplier information for 46 of its “most iconic” products. By December, the company plans to offer such data for twice as many items. The newly available information, which includes interactive geographical maps and a traceability disclosure list, offers consumers and stakeholders previously unavailable visibility into the tiers of its supply chain, while providing “greater insights” into the origins of its products, VF said.