Vans has been working on enhancing its sustainability efforts for years, but those efforts have been largely behind the scenes. That’s going to change today.
The California-based division of VF Corp. is committing publicly to institute a number of global commitments by 2030 to help reduce waste and keep its products in use and out of landfills. That includes a move to create circular products and systems that use regenerative and recycled materials.
“As a purpose-driven company that is ingrained in youth culture, we are leveraging our commitment to creativity to seek new solutions that reimagine the lifecycle of our products and protect the environment for future generations,” said Kim Matsoukas, senior manager of sustainability at Vans.
Matsoukas said although she has worked at the company for nine years, “we didn’t talk about it publicly. We need to double down on our commitment to sustainability, be more transparent and put a stake in the ground.”
She said that in her mind, the two biggest issues to our planet today are climate change and plastics, both of which the company is addressing.
Matsoukas said the goal for the brand is to convert all owned and operated facilities to 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. The Vans headquarters in Costa Mesa, Calif., was LEED Platinum certified in 2017.
In addition, by 2030, 100 percent of Vans’ most heavily used materials, including rubber, cotton, leather and polyester, will be regenerative, responsibly sourced, renewable or recycled, she said. Matsoukas explained that while these materials will continue to be used, they will be obtained through more sustainable sources. For example, the brand will work with farms and ranches that produce rubber, cotton and leather to pilot and scale their regenerative agriculture practices, explore bio-based alternatives with lower carbon footprints than traditional petroleum-based synthetic materials, and convert virgin polyester used in footwear, apparel and accessories to recycled sources.
Among the companies Vans is working with are Terra Genesis, which creates regenerative rubber; Indigo Ag, an organic cotton supplier, and PUR Projet, which works with companies to strengthen their supply chains through agroforestry, land restoration and sustainable agricultural practices.
As part of this commitment, the company said it will commit to a 43 percent carbon reduction by cutting the average impact of top materials by 35 percent, utilizing 50 percent recycled polyester and sourcing 100 percent sustainably grown cotton by 2025.
At the same time, Matsoukas said Vans will eliminate single-use plastic bags at its retail stores by the end of this year as it works to cut down on plastic waste. And it will minimize the impact of its packaging by obtaining it from sustainable sources and ensuring that it is recyclable.
The brand will also expand its shoe recycling program by 2023, she added.
“While there’s more work for us to do, through our Vans family, partnerships with PUR Projet, Terra Genesis and other leading environmental organizations, we’re proud to accomplish these goals by 2030 as we look to create a brighter future for our environment, our communities and our planet,” Matsoukas said.
To commemorate Earth Day on Thursday, customers can share what they are doing to make a positive impact on the environment through the brand’s app. Each submission received prior to May 2 will be included in a drawing to receive a prize. The company’s web site and social media messaging will also be simplified to make it easier for consumers to understand, Matsoukas said.