VF Corporation has set a goal to have “100% renewable energy” by 2025 at its owned and operated facilities. The company has over 60,000 employees, so having a commitment to 100% renewable energy is very meaningful. Note, however, that this is actually a 100% renewable electricity goal, since transportation isn’t included.
Even if you are unfamiliar with the name VF Corporation, you are surely aware of some of its famous brands. Some of its popular brands are Wrangler, VANS, the North Face, and Nautica.
Letitia Webster, VP of Corporate Sustainability, answered some questions for CleanTechnica about the 100% renewable electricity target and related matters.
1. 100% renewable energy by 2025 seems like a very ambitious goal … how far along the path are you currently, and what is the roadmap to get all the way there?
We’re early in the process and have a long way to go, but our confidence stems from the fact that we’re building on a strong foundation. We already power a number of our facilities with 100 percent renewable energy, including a distribution center, our Outdoor campus in Alameda, Calif., and our international headquarters in Stabio, Switzerland.
We are exploring investments in renewable energy sources, both onsite and offsite, which can include power purchase agreements (PPAs) to move us forward. Also, we believe it’s important that we have the ability to procure clean renewable energy from the grid; therefore, we regularly meet with governments and legislatures to advocate for clean energy policies.
To meet this ambitious goal, we created the VF Renewable Energy Task Force, a group comprised of key functional leaders from sustainability, treasury, tax, finance, legal, procurement and facilities. This Task Force is dedicated to helping us execute our plan and achieve our 100% RE goal.
2. When you say renewable energy, what specific forms will you be using?
Solar and wind are the primary sources we’re focused on for on-site and large-scale PPAs. However, we also consider biomass, geothermal, and hydro as part of the energy mix.
3. Will you be using energy storage as well to complement the renewable energy?
We currently use thermal energy for the HVAC at our internal headquarters in Stabio. The air-conditioning system generates ice at night when energy costs are low, and this ice is then used to help cool the building during the day when power loads peak. However, storage systems, while effective, are complex and expensive, so we’re selective about how we use them.
4. Do you currently have an idea of how much switching to renewable energy might save the company in the long run?
We are moving to renewables because we’re able to lock in the energy at a stable, below-market price. This helps to eliminate the volatility that’s inherent with buying brown energy from the grid and enables us to save money.
Since 2009, VF has saved about $20 million in energy costs because of our clean energy use. That demonstrates to our shareholders that we are good stewards of the money they invest with VF.
Additionally, we believe the advantages of using clean energy extend beyond financial; there are reputational benefits as well. Switching to renewable further demonstrates to our stakeholders VF’s commitment to sustainability. It positions us to recruit top talent who care about climate-related issues, and we can engage our associates in our actions. The money spent on renewable energy provides far greater value to our company than brown energy could ever do. It does more than just power our operations, it powers our future.
5. What are some key energy efficiency measures you are likely to implement?
Our philosophy is that any kilowatt wasted is a bad kilowatt. In 2011, we set a goal to reduce our energy use by 5% by the end of 2015, compared to 2009 levels. We just crunched the data and found that we far surpassed that goal and achieved a 12% reduction! What’s amazing is that we did this while also growing revenue by 70% and facilities by 40%.
We accomplished this through a combination of facility upgrades and behavior change. Lighting retrofits and motion sensors in our facilities and retail locations have helped. We also installed technologies to make the miles of conveyor belts at our distribution centers operate more efficiently. And, we’ve educated our associates on the big impact their individual daily actions can have on our energy use. Sustainability has taken root at VF and our workforce is committed to helping VF conserve energy.
6. The international HQ in Switzerland already uses 100% renewable electricity — what are the sources?
About 5% comes from onsite solar panels and the remaining 95% is hydro power procured through the grid.
7. How many employees do you have, and how do you communicate with them as you go about achieving your renewable energy goals?
VF has about 64,000 associates worldwide. We’ve been regularly communicating with them over the years to inform them of our overall sustainability strategy and our progress, and what they can do to support our global efforts. Built into our corporate values and company culture is a genuine respect for the environment, and our workforce truly embodies this spirit in their decisions and actions every day.
For energy efficiency specifically, we conducted several global engagement programs with our associates, including our “Strive for 5” campaign, which encouraged associates to help us reach our 5 percent energy reduction goal. We provided simple tips they could incorporate into their daily routines to help contribute to our global energy savings. Surpassing our 5 percent goal by such as sizeable margin proves that our associates are dedicated to supporting our corporate sustainability goals.
As we now focus on our 100% renewable energy goal, we will engage our associates even further through education and involvement campaigns that will empower them to continue to reduce our demand, improve efficiency and drive our transition to renewables. We can’t do it without them.
8. How important is climate change awareness and carbon emissions reduction for the company?
VF, like most companies, is not immune to the impacts of climate change. We believe the risks are real and that actions to address this issue on a global scale require immediate attention. That’s why in addition to our 100% renewable energy goal, we engage with policymakers around the world to advocate for clean energy policies and to share our point of view on climate change. VF is a member of Business for Innovative Climate Energy Policy (BICEP), we joined the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, signed the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, and we’ve attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen (COP 17) and most recently Paris (COP21). Being an active participant in the dialogue around climate change is a way for us to leverage our influence and scale, and we hope it inspires others.
9. Do you currently have, or are you planning to consider an employee transportation program which encourages the use of public transportation, carpooling, or bike riding?
Some VF brands have these types of transportation programs in place at their headquarters and other facilities. At the corporate level, we continue to explore how we can incorporate initiatives such as these into our actions to further extend our overall carbon reduction efforts.