Skaters Get Sustainable


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When most people think of Vans they picture a shaggy-looking dude rolling around on a skateboard through graffiti-streaked alley ways. Since its inception in 1966, the Vans brand has become synonymous with skateboarding, youth culture and, of course, shoes. Certainly the last thing to come to mind would be sustainability. As a leading global footwear and apparel brand, Vans recognizes that its roots in skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding depend upon a healthy environment. While I initially set out to discover something detrimental about the company, I quickly learned that it deserves “mad props” (i.e., respect). The company’s sustainability initiative, dubbed “Vans Sole,” sparked a number of energy and waste saving practices on an operational level, coupled with programs designed to make an impact in local communities. 

Vans was not always perfect, however. In 2012, the company conducted a waste audit of its corporate headquarters and determined that it sent too much waste to landfills. In order to rectify this issue, Vans set a goal of diverting 50% of its waste from landfills by the end of 2014. Continuing the trend, Vans’ prominent distribution center in Santa Fe Springs became a zero waste facility in 2013. Such a feat entailed recycling over 1,600 tons of waste each year, recycling more than 8,000 pounds of cardboard each day (enough energy to power the average American home for more than 7 months) and starting a Box Reuse project aimed at reusing as many inbound shipping boxes as possible for outbound shipping. As if that were not enough, Vans joined the the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, “an industry-wide group of over 100 leading apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers, nonprofits, and NGOs working to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products around the world.” The coalition strives to promote the “Higg Index,” which measures the environmental performance of products. Vans analyzed many of its own products using the Higg Index to determine ways that its apparel could be produced in a greener fashion.

A key differentiator for Vans and its Vans Sole concept is that it recognizes not only the environmental aspect of sustainability, but also the community aspect. Vans started programs such as the Vans Custom Culture art competition, A.skate Foundation and Vans Gives Back days to ensure that the communities that it does business with are thriving. As a loyal Vans customer, I am encouraged to see that my money is going to a company that truly values stakeholders that are not necessarily apparent. By dedicating resources to preserving the environment and local communities, Vans is creating value for more than just themselves. Surely Freeman would be proud! Through my research, I have not found a single piece of evidence or news that incriminates Vans in any way. This seems rather atypical of such a large company, and I hope that Vans is able to continue the trend.

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4 responses to “Skaters Get Sustainable

  1. I purchased my first pair of Vans’ shoes recently, and although Vans’ sustainability initiatives were not a factor in my buying, I think it is “chill” (i.e., cool) that they are being proactive. Certain companies have gained a negative brand image due to violations, child laborers, etc., while others have a positive brand image. Then there is the third type of company that people are unsure of: Is it exploiting child labor? Is it reducing waste? Now, I can place Vans into the positive category, and I can feel more comfortable buying its products knowing that Vans really does care about the environment.

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  2. While I wrote my post on Sanuks, Vans are also some of my favorite shoes! It was exciting to see that another brand of shoes that I wear regularly are also environmentally conscious. Although the current environmental effort is relatively new, it is encouraging to me that they took the initiative to do a waste audit and instead of just fixing the minimal, they took the information they had to significantly reduce their waste. It seems that Vans is not satisfied, and that they will continue to innovate in terms of waste–this is what corporate social responsibility really is.

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  3. Pingback: Blog Council: Our Favorite Companies | Stakeholders:Uncensored·

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