The North Face

Never Stop Exploring

Monday 12 June 2017, by Andrea McDermott, Anissa, Carme

1 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

The North Face Company is a sports clothing brand established in 1966 in San Francisco by two American hiking lovers who decided to open a shop to sell the best clothes for outdoor activities.

They sell sports clothes for all kinds of activities such as skiing, climbing, hiking, snowboarding… They have a wide range of products, from camping tents to shoes to incredibly warm clothes. They have a very strong reputation amongst the best athletes and adventurers all over the world.

They work hard to provide the best equipment to their athletes and explorers, always respecting and protecting nature while promoting a global movement for appreciating the outdoor world.

The company has also investigated to develop two game changing product lines which are known as Thermoball and Fuseform. Thermoball introduced synthetic insulation, reproducing the capability of down. Fuseform has had a great impact on the way technical apparel is produced, changing the whole manufacturing space.

As we now proceed to explain, they have different policies in order to preserve nature, which have successfully been carried on, showing impressive results. Moreover, they have developed a series of programs such as the Clothes the Loop which consists on recycling the clothes after consumers are done with the use of the product. These are innovative programs which demonstrate how committed they truly are to the conservation of the environment.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

The North Face is making huge efforts to address ethical challenges regarding pollution, sustainability, and animal cruelty.

Sustainability and Pollution
The North Face has made huge efforts in maintaining sustainability by reducing the amount of CO2 emitted from their products and conservation efforts of water. In 2013, the company reduced CO2 emissions by 21%. Their operating and manufacturing facilities all follow strict guidelines under the Energy and Environmental Design Leadership which monitor waste management, materials, and energy consumption. 61% of their European locations also run on green energy.

They have partnered with BlueSign Technologies to achieve more efficient water and energy consumption through the distribution chain. As a result in 2015, the company reported savings such as 310,507,006 gallons of water, 69,594,408 kwHs of energy, and 8,742,596 lbs of chemicals.

Additionally, the North Face has been a leader in addressing wastefulness as well as the potential harm from the disposal of their products. For example, the fleece jackets North Face manufactures are made out of recycled material such as plastic bottles. Additionally, the dye process that gives the fleece its color is applied to the yarn rather than the entire fleece, therefore using 50% less water, 50% less chemicals, and 25% less energy than the alternative process.

In addition, The North Face has implemented a Clothes the Loop Program that aims to prevent their used products from ending up in landfills. At all store locations, customers can drop off their used North Face gear in one of the Clothes the Loop bins where they are later sent to a recycling plant and are repurposed into materials such as insulation and carpet filler.

Animal Cruelty
The North Face has made a lot of progress to reduce the amount of animal cruelty that may result from obtaining the resources for their products. They have created a Roles Sustainability Standard (RDS) program that regulates sustainability in the textile and fashion industry as well as monitors agricultural systems. This RDS program guarantees that North Face does not use animals that have faced cruelty such as forced feeding and plucking. Additionally, RDS traces the down from where it initially came from all the way to the final garment to make sure no unethical practices are used along the way. Today, the RDS program has been implemented in more than 40 brands, over 1200 sites in Europe, North America, and Asia that house over 500 million birds on their farms.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

We trust this company because we believe that as an outdoor company, the framework of the existence of this company is because of the love for nature and being outdoors. For this reason, we think this company is ethical because through the creation of the products, they are made with the environment in mind. Recycling materials and being mindful of how much they are taking from the environment to produce the products. I trust these products because through experience, it’s always made for top performance and lasts a long time, all while being able to be recycled after use by a consumer. Additionally, we really feel like we can trust this company because they are making huge efforts to improve their sustainability and preserve the environment not for the sole intent of marketability. As mentioned before they have implemented many programs that address pollution, waste, sustainability, and animal welfare. They are making huge changes to their company that can be costly and may be difficult to adapt to, but their willingness to implement these changes demonstrate their devotion to environmental change rather than for the sake of PR.

Economically, North Face is a successful company, who has risen to become one of the top performance outdoor companies. Its vast appeal has driven locations throughout the globe, thus attracting consumers all over the world to purchase their products. While the leaders of this company show the ability to drive profits and grow the company, it is also very clear that environment and the production process are areas where they are always looking to improve and be as ethically aware as possible.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

From creating programs such as the Responsible Down Standard, Backyard Project, and partnering with BlueSign Technologies it is evident that North Face has faced challenges within their business and have maneuvered to become more ethical in its actions.One key challenge for North Face in terms of being more sustainable as an outdoor performance company is their supply chain and how they are able to monitor it.

In an effort to create products without using their big manufacturing facilities, North Face wanted to see if they were able to produce hoodies that could be found 150 miles from its headquarters in San Francisco. This was an effort to support local artisans while eliminating waste from production. However, the challenges with this project are the difficulties that come with achieving the 150 mile goal. Using local suppliers and artisans means that the product can only be produced in smaller quantities which increased the cost, and in return increased the price for the consumer. This raises the issues of how North Face can make sustainably made clothing which is pricier but that consumers will actually buy. This project was a clear effort to draw in community supplies to create a high quality North Face product but the challenge that remains to be solved is how to get consumers to care about the efforts that go into producing a sustainably made piece of clothing. This calls for a new supply chain that connects “soil to skin”.

Throughout the years, North Face has been working closely with the use of water, energy, chemicals, the treatment of animals, and offering a lifetime warranty on products to have the recycle clothing program. This is all in an effort to be more aware and socially responsible, which they were able to improve and still have room to improve on these issues by working more closely with their suppliers. For example, North Face is owned by a parent company, VF which does all the manufacturing. This brings challenges of not being hands on with the manufacturing and production process. A challenge that comes from being hands off is that factories in Bangladesh appear to be a problem and 12% of North Face products are produced here. These factories are known for having bad working conditions and numerous human rights violations. North Face needs to have a regulation process throughout their facilities to combat these issues and ensure the North Face products are creating with employees that are happy to be doing what they do. Instilling a wider scale Backyard Project and trying to duplicate these efforts to produce locally while drawing interest from consumers is one of the main things they can improve on in the years to come. It may be difficult to monitor each facility which will always be a key challenge, but North Face is taking forward focused steps to better their company for the sake of the environment, animals, and for the employees that work to create the top tier North Face products.


Location: Alameda (California)

Sector: Manufacturing

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