Five Customers, Five Questions: VF Corporation

Our second interview is with Jeannie Renné-Malone, vice president of global sustainability at VF Corporation, whose brands include Vans, The North Face, Timberland, Dickies, and JanSport. Discussions about greenhouse gas accounting all too often overlook the tremendous role of energy customers in driving grid decarbonization investments and the efforts of the people who make that clean energy procurement happen. The Clean Energy Buyers Institute has interviewed five energy professionals and asked five questions, to reveal insights and real stories about their hard work to advance the carbon-free energy transition. Customer perspectives are important for broader industry dialogues, particularly as World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development update the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

Jeannie Renné-Malone, VF Corporation
Vice President of Global Sustainability

1. Could you share an example or two illustrating how and why carbon-free electricity (CFE) procurement is important for your company and for decarbonizing the grid?  

Carbon-free electricity procurement is essential for decarbonizing the grid and achieving a sustainable energy system. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions, transitions away from fossil fuels, supports renewable energy development, and enhances energy security. In addition, CFE procurement is an important vehicle for companies to advance progress toward renewable energy and sustainability goals.

As a signatory of RE100, VF has a goal to power its direct operations with renewable energy by Fiscal Year 2026. As part of our roadmap to meet this goal, we have outlined a number of strategies including on-site renewable energy, renewable energy certificate (REC) purchases, and renewable energy tax equity investments.

In July 2022, we initiated the largest renewable energy tax equity investment in the footwear and apparel industry. This investment is funding the development of four utility-scale solar projects in South Carolina, anticipated to generate 47,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy per year, roughly 23% of VF’s FY21 global electricity load. The associated RECs generated through the project will contribute to progress toward our RE100 goal.

2. How does the voluntary market system affect how you assess different CFE procurement options and ultimately make decisions?  

The voluntary market system offers greater flexibility and choice in selecting carbon-free electricity procurement options. We are not solely limited to local utility options or on-site renewable energy, and therefore we are able to explore a wider range of cost-effective renewable energy options that align with and help advance our sustainability goals.

3. How do energy attribute certificates (EACs) and market-based accounting affect your decision making, and why? 

EACs and market-based accounting offer several benefits to our renewable energy and sustainability strategy. For example, EACs provide a transparent and standardized way to track and verify the generation and consumption of renewable energy. Further, EACs facilitate market-based accounting, which provides flexibility, allowing us to explore a wider range of cost-effective options to advance progress toward our goals, without physically consuming it at the point of generation.  

4. What advice would you give to companies that are just starting their efforts to procure carbon-free electricity? 

Transitioning to carbon-free electricity is a journey that requires long-term commitment, collaboration, and innovation. Start with feasible steps and gradually scale up efforts to achieve significant environmental impact. Some initial steps may include conducting an energy audit; establishing measurable goals; exploring on-site renewable energy generation; considering RECs, power purchase agreements, or tax equity investments; monitoring and communicating progress; advocating for improved policies, incentives, and regulatory support; and collaborating across sectors!

5. If you could change one thing in today’s CFE markets to help your company go even further in decarbonizing the grid, what would it be? 

If I could change one thing in today’s CFE market to help companies go even further in decarbonizing the grid, it would be to enhance the accessibility and affordability of energy storage technologies, enhance grid infrastructure, and advance grid management systems. Energy storage plays a critical role in maximizing the utilization of renewable energy sources and ensuring a reliable and stable power supply. Policy measures and financial incentives will play an important role in supporting energy storage technologies and grid integration solutions.

Read other interviews in our series.