The North Face, Timberland, and Others Are About to Get a Little Greener

 Eric Piermont / AFP / Getty Images

It doesn’t make sense for brands that make apparel and gear for the outdoors to not do everything they can to preserve the places where you have a reason to wear their product. Without the great outdoors, why would you need a North Face jacket or a pair of Timberland hiking boots?

VF Corporation, the maker of Vans, North Face, Timberland, Wrangler, and Lee announced a new sustainable materials policy on Monday. The Forest-Derived Materials Policy sets formal guidelines for the company’s purchasing preferences and use of sustainable forest materials and products.

“Deforestation and forest degradation continues to be a global issue affecting climate change and human rights,” Letitia Webster, VF’s Vice President of Global Corporate Sustainability, said in a press release. “This policy provides clear guidance across our many purchasing categories and it enables us to play our part in protecting the world’s forests.”

At its core (after stripping down the corporate jargon), the aim of the policy is to help VF Corporation avoid any issues with purchasing, sourcing, and utilizing any products that are associated with deforestation and degradation of forestland. That means that VF is making it their responsibility to prevent the loss of ancient and endangered forests, the jeopardizing of biodiversity and habitat, use of forced labor in making forestry products, and loss of indigenous peoples and local community rights.

An additional clause in the Forest Derived Materials Policy emphasizes VF’s initiative to use recycled fibers whenever possible in their products and prioritizes the use of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)–certified paper and fiber.

When drawing up the plans to put their new environmentally conscious policy into motion, VF partnered with a handful of NGO’s and nonprofit organizations dedicated to the protection of the climate, forests, and wildlife. One of VF’s go-to NGO partners, Canopy, has a goal to eliminate the use of ancient and endangered forests in the production of forest-derived fabrics such as rayon and viscose from the apparel and fashion industries by the end of 2017.

Other independent outdoor brands such as Patagonia and Columbia Sportswear have similarly launched apparel and initiatives that focus on sustainable processes. Back in 2014, Patagonia committed to using 100 percent Traceable Down, developed a biorubber replacement material for wetsuits, and invested in eco-friendly processing company CO2Nexus. Columbia Sportswear launched the 100 percent recycled OutDry Extreme Eco jacket, which is made from 21 plastic bottles.

But this is a massive change of pace for a large brand conglomerate. “When an apparel giant like VF expands its forest commitment with a policy like this, it adds incredible momentum to global forest conservation and climate efforts,” Nicole Rycroft, executive director of Canopy, said.