Conversations surrounding sustainability are gaining new momentum as the COVID-19 health crisis compels scores of people — corporate leaders and everyday consumers alike — to reassess their priorities and take on new goals to better protect themselves as well as the ailing planet.
According to a report last year from enterprise technology firm CGS, more than half of consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom — around 51% of respondents — ranked sustainability as an important issue to them. About 56% of U.S. consumers said they would pay more for a sustainable option, and that sustainable-minded companies are more likely to resonate with today’s shoppers.
Some boldface brands and retailers are listening: Over the past several months, a number of leading athletic, fashion and footwear companies have announced new and ambitious sustainability commitments. From Adidas to Walmart, FN rounds up the businesses leading today’s eco-centered discussions.
Announced: December 2020
Goals: Adidas announced plans to make more than 60% of its products with sustainable materials this year. It also said that it would produce 17 million pairs of shoes with recycled plastic waste from beaches and coastal regions as part of its partnership with environmental organization Parley for the Oceans. From 2024 onward, the company would shift to using only recycled polyester in its products.
Wins: In 2020 alone, Adidas shared that it made more than 15 million pairs of shoes with waste product and collected alongside Parley almost 7,000 tons of plastic waste. It has also exclusively been using sustainable cotton since 2018.
Dick’s Sporting Goods
Announced: September 2020
Goals: Dick’s Sporting Goods intends to remove all single-use plastic bags from its stores by 2025. It also revealed that it has joined forces with Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy to seek more sustainable solutions to replace the current retail bag through the Beyond the Bag initiative. It will serve as the consortium’s sports and outdoors sector lead partner.
Wins: The retailer shared that it currently has a recycling rate of 70% across its retail stores and operations centers.
Announced: September 2020
Goals: Nike unveiled more details behind its “Move to Zero” program, which is intended to minimize its environmental footprint. It aims to power owned and operated facilities with 100% renewable energy by 2025, as well as reduce carbon emissions across its global supply chain by 30% in the next decade, which is in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Wins: The brand recently piloted a new “visual badging” system highlighting more than 2,000 items both online and in stores that are made with at least 50% recycled content by weight. Shoppers are also able to filter their choices based on specific materials, such as organic cotton or recycled foam, and discover the brand’s process of turning trash into footwear and apparel.
Announced: April 2020
Goals: Two days ahead of Earth Day, Nordstrom announced that it seeks to reduce its use of single-use plastics by 50%, starting with the phase-out of plastic bags from its more than 245 Nordstrom Rack stores. It also wants to ensure that 15% of all merchandise it sells is considered sustainable. What’s more, the department store chain said it would donate $1 million to support textile recycling innovation, as well as grant $100,000 to charitable organization The Nature Conservancy. The company has also committed to using sustainably sourced raw materials in 50% of polyester and cotton products from its Nordstrom Made brands, including Halogen, Chelsea 28 and Leith.
Wins: In August 2019, Nordstrom revealed its participation in the G7 Fashion Pact — a coalition of global brands and retailers including Chanel, Jimmy Choo parent Capri Holdings, Gap, Kering, Nike and Stuart Weitzman parent Tapestry. It also launched the shopping category Sustainable Style to narrow down eco-friendly products on its site for consumers.
Announced: February 2021
Goals: Vans and The North Face parent VF Corp. announced its goal to eliminate all single-use plastic packaging — including polybags — by 2025. It added that all remaining non-plastic packaging used by VF and its labels will be reduced, originate from sustainable sources and be designed for reuse or recyclability. Across its enterprise, the corporation plans to remove all non-essential, single-use plastics “for which there is a viable product alternative” from all company-sponsored events by 2023. All VF-owned distribution centers are expected to be zero-waste by April 1.
Wins: VF is a longstanding participant of Canopy’s Pack4Good initiative — through which it has pledged that its paper packaging doesn’t contain materials from endangered forests or other controversial sources as well as reduces overall forest fiber consumption for packaging. At Timberland, which was honored with FN’s first Sustainability Leadership Award at the 2020 FNAAs, top executives outlined a vision for all of the label’s products to have a net positive impact by 2030.
Announced: September 2020
Goals: Walmart has targeted zero emissions across its global operations by 2040. Working along with its philanthropic arm Walmart Foundation, it also intends to restore at least 50 million acres of land and a million square miles of ocean in a decade to help combat the effects of climate change. In order to achieve its goals without carbon offsets, the big-box chain said it would need to harvest enough wind, solar and other energy sources to power its facilities with 100% renewable energy by 2035. What’s more, it said it would cut out emissions from all of its vehicles, including long-haul delivery trucks, plus transition to low-impact refrigerants for cooling and electrified equipment for heating in its stores, clubs and distribution centers by 2040.
Wins: In 2019, Walmart shared that it powered around 29% of its operations with renewable energy and diverted 80% of its waste from landfills and incineration around the world. Its Project Gigaton program, which was introduced in 2017, also aims to avoid one billion metric tons of greenhouse gases from the global value chain by 2030.