VF Corp.—which owns heritage lifestyle brands like The North Face, Vans, Timberland and Dickies—is the latest American apparel firm to announce sweeping changes to address racial equity within its organization.
On Thursday, the Colorado-based company announced that it’s doubling down on diversity commitments by implementing a number of programs and public policy initiatives to address gaps in opportunity for people of color both within its organization and beyond. The agreed-upon actions were developed by an internal group, the Council to Advance Racial Equity (CARE).
“Given the profound inequities that negatively impact the lives and livelihood of Black and Brown Americans, the actions we are taking through our CARE initiative, combined with our strategic partnerships at the corporate and brand levels, are critical steps to elevating and accelerating our work to promote racial equity,” VF president and CEO Steve Rendle said in a statement. “We are committed to the actions we’ve outlined and will hold ourselves accountable for making meaningful progress and leading by example.”
By 2030, VF aspires to see Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) represent one-quarter of the company. In support of this goal, it has partnered with the Oregon-based Pensole Design Academy—which provides students with training in footwear design—to introduce students of color to its Vans, Timberland and The North Face businesses. A masterclass with the labels’ design teams will help provide these upcoming industry creatives with on-the-ground experience, and top-performing candidates will earn the opportunity to participate in a year-long rotational apprenticeship at VF’s Denver offices.
Rendle said the firm’s partnership with Pensole “directly aligns with our commitment to enable racial equity for marginalized communities with a specific focus on uplifting the Black and Brown communities, which have been traditionally underrepresented in the fashion and design space.”
Also bolstering its goal of finding and hiring diverse candidates, VF has committed to employing Mansfield Rule requirements as a recruitment benchmark. The system was originally developed as a tool for the legal industry, and it requires that at least 50 percent of candidates up for hire or promotion to any position are women, BIPOC, LGBTQ, and individuals with disabilities. The company has also pledged to resolve any identified pay gaps for employees, its sponsored athletes and influencers using a pay equity analysis.
In order to both enforce and incentivize the adoption of diversity, inclusion and equity goals among people managers, director-level staff and above will see a portion of their bonuses tied to the implementation of the new goals. What’s more, the company’s vice presidents will commit three hours each fiscal quarter to mentoring BIPOC employees and individuals from the community. New review processes will help identify advancement plans for those who demonstrate high potential, and they will be paired with executive leaders who can sponsor their aspirations.
The responsibility for promoting inclusion won’t fall squarely on the shoulders of VF’s leaders. All employees will be required to participate in diversity and inclusion training to foster a culture of belonging and allyship, it said.
VF also plans to take its commitments beyond its walls by establishing a diversity program for its suppliers. The company said it would double its spend with minority and women-owned businesses by 2025, both through direct and indirect procurement of goods and materials, as well as through the activities of its individual brands. Meanwhile, the VF Foundation, which provides philanthropic grants on behalf of the company, has committed 10 percent of its funding support to community initiatives that advance its racial equity strategy.
Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a national nonprofit, will become one of VF’s newest partners in its mission to establish corporate standards for the support of racial equity through its newly launched Black Equity at Work certification. The program will help VF Corp. refine its diversity goals and create accountability metrics to help gauge its progress over time. The partnership will help VF “take [its] support for social justice to the next level,” Rendle said.