How COVID-19 Led Vans Parent VF to Commit to New Sustainability and Inclusivity Initiatives

VF Corp. is formally endorsing two initiatives that further the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as the coronavirus pandemic continues to bring about socio-economic disruption around the world.

The Vans and Timberland parent announced that it has committed to the UN Global Compact — an initiative that encourages businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies as well as report on their implementation.

What’s more, the retail group added that it would adhere to the Women’s Empowerment Principles — produced by the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women — that offer guidance to companies on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace and their communities.

“The social and environmental issues exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have been extraordinary, and we believe now more than ever that business has a crucial role to play in respecting human rights and protecting the environment,” said Julie Sutton, senior director of government affairs and global impact, plus human rights lead, at VF. “We are proud to raise awareness of the necessary human rights and sustainability work needed to help our industry build back better from this remarkable time.”

As a signatory, VF pledged to adhere to UNGC standards across “all facets of its strategy, culture and day-to-day operations,” as well as submit a progress report every year.

It also plans to build on its Worker and Community Development program that focuses on elevating women throughout its global supply chain. Four years ago, VF joined the Paradigm for Parity coalition and promised to reach organizational gender parity at the director level and above by 2030. Its family of brands has also unveiled range of women’s-focused initiatives — including the launch of The North Face’s “She Moves Mountains” campaign — and engaged in other efforts to add more more women-led partners to its supply chain. (It works with a Jordanian-led, all-female factory of 500 employees that opened in February with the support of the UN.)

“We believe when women are empowered, the world is empowered,” added Sutton. “We view the Women’s Empowerment Principles as a natural evolution of VF’s existing efforts to advance women’s equality. We are excited to further accelerate the pursuit of our vision and lead the industry forward.”

The announcement comes a month after VF appointed Lauren Guthrie as its VP of global inclusion and diversity. In the role, Guthrie is tasked with developing and implementing I&D programs aimed at racial equity, social justice and inclusivity throughout the company and within its labels. The retail group also recently issued its second I&D Annual Profile, where it reported that its overall representation of women has consistently remained at 50% or higher since it began tracking metrics in 2015.

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