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VF Maps Dozens of Products to Tier 4 Suppliers, With More to Come

VF Corp. announced Thursday that it is broadening its traceability mapping program by publicly disclosing Tier 1 through Tier 4 supplier information for dozens of products in a consolidated, downloadable file.

The move, according to the fashion conglomerate, which owns Timberland, The North Face and Vans, among others, provides an “unprecedented level” of transparency, both for the company and the larger fashion industry, which often struggles to map its suppliers past the first tier of finished-goods manufacturers. The scheme currently covers 46 of its “most iconic” products, including JanSport’s Big Student Backpack, Kipling’s Art M Tote Bag, The North Face’s Women’s Down Sierra Parka and Timberland’s Men’s Con 3-Eye Classic Boot. By December, VF plans to have similar deep dives for twice as many products.

Offering supply-chain visibility through Tier 4, VF said, demonstrates its commitment to improving and increasing transparency as outlined in its corporate sustainability and responsibility strategy, Made for Change.

“Traceability is foundational to building an ethical and sustainable supply chain and drives improvements for both people and our planet,” Shanel Orton, director, VF responsible materials and traceability, said in a statement. “The new data helps us further validate adherence to VF’s policies and supplier requirements throughout our supply chain, giving our teams, stakeholders and consumers greater confidence that our products are manufactured in a responsible manner.”

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VF has also translated the data into interactive geographical maps, plus a traceability disclosure list, that are available on its website. The new disclosures, it said, offer consumers and stakeholders previously unavailable visibility into the tiers of its supply chain, while providing “greater insights” into the origins of its products.

“We’re on a journey to drive positive change throughout our global supply chain while simultaneously strengthening the trust between VF and its suppliers, stakeholders and consumers,” said Orton. “We believe this bold action improves our practices and sets an even higher standard in our industry.”

VF Corp. is publicly disclosing Tier 1 through Tier 4 supplier information for dozens of products in a consolidated, downloadable file.
VF Corp. is publicly disclosing Tier 1 through Tier 4 supplier information for dozens of products in a consolidated, downloadable file. Courtesy

Brands and retailers, facing growing public scrutiny about the human-rights abuses that often lurk in their supply chains, are feeling increasing pressure to shed light on their operations, albeit with middling results.

An October study by grassroots group Fashion Revolution found that supply-chain visibility dips precipitously the further upstream you look. While 46 out of 62 major brands and retailers with reported links to companies in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu provide a list of their Tier 1 cut-and-sew manufacturers, for instance, only 23 are publishing at least a partial list of processing facilities involved in printing, dyeing, laundering or embroidery, the organization found. A scant 18 disclose even a fraction of their textile production sites, such as those involved in spinning, knitting, weaving and fabric production. Just one of the 62 companies—Swedish denim label Nudie Jeans—supplies a complete list of its textile production sites.

“When you start to look further down the supply chain where fabrics are knitted or woven, textiles are treated and laundered, yarns are spun and dyed, fibers are sorted and processed and raw materials are grown and picked—what the industry commonly refers to as Tiers 2, 3, 4 and 5—there remains a widespread lack of transparency,” the report’s authors wrote. “In fact, there seems to be a broad absence of investigation and supply-chain mapping beyond the first tier.”