How The North Face Plans to Engage Customers on Its Sustainability Journey

The North Face is refining its sustainability commitments in a vision dubbed “Exploration Without Compromise.”

The commitment harbors new perks for customers related to materials and circularity and is part of a broader attempt to better engage them along the journey.

“It was time for a refresh,” said Carol Shu, global senior manager of sustainability at The North Face, on the thinking behind the renewed roadmap that pays a closer eye to the consumer-facing elements of sustainability.

For the first time starting this Earth Day, The North Face’s more than 6.8 million loyalty members can now engage in the Renewed takeback program by exchanging their lightly worn outdoor apparel for a gift certificate. Renewed offers refurbishment and repairs for used clothing from The North Face.

Additionally, “Exploration Without Compromise” will become a visible badge on the brand’s most sustainable products on and in stores, as well as on Renewed circular products. To qualify, items must include 75 percent or greater recycled, organic, regenerative or responsibly sourced renewable materials by weight, and where applicable, a durable water repellant finish that is made with non-perfluorinated chemicals.

Ahead of the fall 2022 debut of its fully circular apparel line, The North Face is building out its Renewed, Lifetime Warranty and Clothes the Loop programs.

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“We have a long history of training our customers and getting them to engage with us. We can engage with customers on a level we haven’t engaged before,” said Shu.

With a warranty program that is 50 years old, the average life of a North Face product is a little over seven years. When it comes to new metrics for reuse, “[The industry] is still trying to figure out how to measure e-commerce programs, end-of-life — we’re actually still trying to work on that,” Shu said, in a bid for transparency.

As for materials, the commitment outlines that 100 percent of the brand’s top apparel materials will be recycled, regenerative or renewable by 2025. Renewable to The North Face, as Shu explained, means that “we don’t want any land to be converted for growing the raw materials to make bio-based synthetics [sugar cane]…We want those sugar cane plants to already exist.”

Today, only some fashion companies have ventured into regenerative or restorative agriculture projects in small doses. In February, The North Face announced its partnership with Indigo Ag, a technology firm that offers newfound premiums and efficiencies for U.S. cotton growers in a move to regenerative practices.

Shu wants to see more than what’s being done to help reverse some of the worst effects of the climate crisis.

“[Regenerative agriculture] partnerships send a really clear and strong demand signal to farmers, growers, land managers — not just in the U.S.,” she said. “We need a lot more of these practices being implemented.”

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The North Face Eyes Regenerative Cotton for Fall 2022. Who’s Next?

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