The North Face is sharpening its focus on sustainability, but don’t call it a pivot.
The outdoor-apparel maker has considered its impact on the environment from the start, according to Carol Shu, its sustainability manager. It just doesn’t brag about it.
“We’ve been doing a lot of things in the background for a long time,” she told Sourcing Journal.
A 1974 catalog, which Shu stumbled upon in the company archives, for instance, criticized the U.S. government for pouring millions into nuclear energy when it should have been building solar plants instead. Douglas Tompkins, who founded The North Face as a climbing equipment retailer in San Francisco 1966, was a noted outdoorsmen and conservationist. So was Kenneth “Hap” Klopp, who took over two years later and directed much of the firm’s environmental ethos, she said.
“Sustainability has always been part of our brand, and I would say we’ve lived by those values,” Shu added. “We’re just not as good at communicating them to our customers.”
But The North Face may finally be opening up. Its recent Fall/Winter 2019 collection is replete with eco-friendly touches, from Futurelight, a line of polyfluorinated chemical-free jackets derived from recycled materials, to Cali Wool, a range of “climate beneficial” wool products made in the United States using regenerative-agriculture techniques.