Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of Product Creation Steve Lesnard of The North Face has been promoting the idea that 2021 is time for everyone to reset. It’s time to reset thinking, perspectives, actions, and access to the outdoors.
The North Face is investing $7 million in its launch of the Explore Fund Council, whose mission is to devise scalable solutions for providing equal access to the outdoors. Lesnard was instrumental in securing the cooperation of passionate experts across industries related to the outdoors, including Jimmy Chin – a North Face Global climber and photographer and winner of an Academy Award – and Lena Waithe – creator of the Showtime series “The Chi” and BET series “Boomerang and Twenties.”
“The stakes are too high,” Steve Lesnard says. “Our platform needs to evolve.” The North Face has moved on from encouraging inclusion through its activity on social media to hands-on creation of real-world interventions to make sure that people of all colors, origins, and orientations have access to the healing power of the outdoor world.
The Explore Fund Council is a natural progression for The North Face. In recent years, The North Face has joined other consumer product behemoths, such as L’Oréal and Kering, owner of the Gucci and Saint Laurent brands, in pursuing initiatives for integrating the company into the circular economy, making sure that its raw materials are ethically and sustainably sourced. Conserving the environment is fundamental to an outdoor lifestyle, but the next step is making sure that the outdoors is accessible to everyone.
Since 2010, The North Face has encouraged access and equity by funding hundreds of organizations around two complementary themes: Loving Wild Places and Enabling Exploration. These grants have included major contributions to The Conservation Alliance, Walls Are Meant for Climbing, and Moves Mountains. The North Face has supported The Adventure Travel Conservation Fund, City Mountaineers, the 21st Century Conservation Corps, Leave No Trace, and the Trust for Public Land.
Now, The North Face will provide significant financial resources for organizations dedicated to lowering the barriers to restorative outdoor life caused by race, income inequality, and physical distance. The North Face will make further strides in integrating racial equality into its mission.
For Steve Lesnard, The North Face’s support for equity in the outdoors begins within. Steve Lesnard has been clear in stating The North Face’s view that creating a more diverse and inclusive outdoor community is driven by a more diverse and inclusive corporate culture. Under Lesnard’s leadership as CMO and global VP of product creation, The North Face has applied an employee-driven strategy to nurture the community it wants to see in the future by becoming the kind of community that it wants to be in the future.
The North Face has created an Internal Racial Equity Council to hasten the process of becoming not just an inclusive corporation but also an anti-racist corporation affirming people of color. The company has also engaged employee listening protocols to gather perspectives and creative insights across its community as it pursues inclusive practices with equitable outcomes.
The North Face has created a joint mission with its parent company, VF Corporation, to advance VF Corp’s Global Inclusion & Diversity agenda. VF Corp has targeted 25 percent representation for people of color in its U.S. operations at the level of director and above by 2030. It has integrated principles of inclusion and training that address unconscious bias at all levels of its workforce.