Hii Business and Environment: Education, Sustainability, and Collaboration at Nautica

In March of 2011, as a part of our EcoPreneurs Program, the Human Impacts Institute led a collaborative workshop at Nautica’s (a part of VF Corporation) Headquarters in NYC. Working with students from the Green School of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and VF employees, the workshop focused on environmental leadership in the community, office and school, as well as co-mentoring for youth and employees.

High school students from the Green School and Nautica employees participated in a workshop facilitated by Tara DePorte, Executive Director and founder of the Human Impacts Institute, concerning the link between urban trees, water quality, and consumer choice. The presentation portion of the workshop highlighted the importance of trees in improving air quality, in mitigating climate change, and in reducing storm water run-off in NYC, which leads tocombined sewer overflows (CSOs) and how individuals can help support tree health in an urban environment. DePorte emphasized how individuals can be sustainable in their homes, work, schools, and communities through reducing toxins–like beauty products and cleaners–in their homes (also reducing the amount of toxins in the waterways), mulching and planting tree beds, and reducing water consumption.

When divided into teams, employees and students brainstormed on-the-ground action plans, brainstorming ideas on bringing sustainability to their school and office–ranging from using canteens and solar paneled rooftops to composting and rainwater barrels. In collaboration, students and employees inspired each other with ideas on how they could make a difference in their local community. During the second half of the workshop, each student was paired with a Nautica employee. Students shadowed employees for a couple of hours and together to address opportunities for sustainability in the workplace. At the same time, students learned about the work being done at Nautica and about the diversity of career paths available.

During this “co-mentoring” section of the day, the Human Impacts Institute talked with Allison Kohll, Director of Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility for VF Sportswear. Allison explained that in the past couple of years, her position has required her to focus more on the areas of environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility. She also described how the VF Corporation, Nautica’s owner, has taken large steps to ensure these two area’s requirements are met. As one of the world’s leading apparel companies, with more than 42,000 associates, VF has recognized that adopting sustainable business practices is important only to lower cost, but to improve efficiencies. Moreover, Allison made clear that VF feels an obligation and commitment to reduce energy use and eliminate waste throughout their operations.

In 2009, the VF company created the global Sustainability Advisory Team. This team is comprised of representatives across all of their businesses and functions. The team also developed a VF Global Sustainability Vision and action plans in four key focus areas: Carbon Footprint & Energy Efficiency, Waste, Education, Training & Communications, and Tools. Based on the Team’s recommendation, the Sustainability Vision they have include long-term goals of:

  • Carbon Footprint & Energy Efficiency. Our long-term aspiration is to operate with optimum energy efficiency while continuously working to minimize our carbon footprint globally. In 2010 we will complete our first global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory, and begin the process of identifying opportunities for reduction. Using 2009 as our baseline, by mid-2011, we expect to establish and communicate our long-term GHG reduction targets.

  • Waste. Our long-term aspiration is to achieve zero waste. In 2010 we are organizing our efforts around four areas, with teams formed to address opportunities in each: reducing operational waste, reducing packaging waste, reducing product waste, and optimizing water use.

  • Education/Training/Communications. Over time, we will embed sustainability into our company’s DNA by integrating sustainable practices into the way we do business, and by inspiring and supporting sustainable practices in the lives of our associates. Our focus in the coming months will be on increasing associates’ understanding and awareness of what sustainability means, why it is important to VF’s success, and how we intend to achieve our energy and waste goals.

  • Tools. We understand that what gets measured gets managed. In order to monitor our progress in each of the above focus areas, we will be building a sustainability management and reporting process that is integrated into our performance management goals and objectives.

Sourced April 7th, 2011 from: http://www.vfc.com/corporate-responsibility/sustainability-at-vf

Although Nautica is still in the early stages of integrating principals of environmental sustainability into their company, they have taken steps to do a greenhouse gas inventory of their owned, operated and leased facilities, as well as begun analysis of their water impacts. Kohll remarked that each business that is part of the VF Corporation now has a sustainability representative. These representatives form a “Sustainability Council”, which is now charged with the monitoring of progress and coordination of sustainability of action recommendations by the Sustainability Advisory Team.

In addition to the NYC workshop led by the Human Impacts Institute, to bring awareness of local sustainability issues to Nautica employees and local students, Hii worked with Nautica’s America’s Sourcing Office in Panama to focus their World Water Day employee engagement activities. These employees will be raising funds to build rainwater harvesting systems for indigenous communities on the Panamanian Island of Bocas del Toro. Working with the Human Impacts Institute partner, La Loma, with funds from Nautica employees, we will be able to provide sustainable water supplies to local families.

In May, 2011, Hii will again bring together VF employees from the New York City office with local students from the Green School, to apply what they learned at the March workshop in the community. Participants will care for street trees in the neighborhood around the Green School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We look forward to an ongoing partnership in bringing environmental sustainability to business.

By Ron Comstock, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Sustainable Business Intern and Tara DePorte, Founder and Executive Director, Human Impacts Institute

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