The North Face has reportedly denied a Houston oil company’s order for branded jackets, saying it does not "support the oil and gas industry" in the same way it "would reject the porn or tobacco industry.”
Innovex Downhole Solutions CEO Adam Anderson said the jackets were going to be used as holiday gifts for employees, and he was “stunned” by the reaction.
Anderson took to LinkedIn, where he published an open letter to Steve Rendle, president and CEO of The North Face's parent company VF Corp, criticizing its decision to reject the order and arguing the importance of his company and the oil industry overall.
At this point, you may wonder why I am directing this letter to you, the CEO of one of the world’s largest apparel companies. We recently contacted North Face to inquire about buying jackets with the Innovex logo for all of our employees as Christmas presents. We viewed the North Face as a high-quality brand that our employees would value and cherish for years to come. Unfortunately, we were informed that North Face would not sell us jackets because we were an oil and gas services company.
The irony in this statement is your jackets are made from the oil and gas products the hardworking men and women of our industry produce. I think this stance by your company is counterproductive virtue signaling, and I would appreciate you re-considering this stance. We should be celebrating the benefits of what oil and gas do to enable the outdoors lifestyle your brands embrace. Without oil and gas, there would be no market for nor ability to create the products your company sells.
There's actually some recent precedent here. Patagonia is notoriously selective about the brands or companies from which it will accept corporate orders, famously adding financial tech startups to its no-buy list. Patagonia also sued an apparel designer for parodying its logo to depict oil drilling.
The North Face sent an email response to News 4 San Antonio, saying that the company looks at each request for branded merchandise to make sure it can handle the supply and that the potential partner is “consistent with [its] brand guidelines and company values.”
“We thoroughly investigate product requests to ensure they align closely with our goals and commitments surrounding sustainability and environmental protection,” the email said. “Each request is evaluated individually on its own merits, and we don’t share the results of those decisions for a few reasons, including to respect the privacy of those organizations.”
Directly responding to Anderson’s point that apparel companies use materials that rely on his industry, the North Face response details that the company is “exploring and prioritizing new supply chain and production opportunities to decrease [its] environmental footprint and ultimately aim for the use of entirely recycled synthetic materials.”
With that, there’s not much indication that The North Face would reverse its decision regarding Innovex. And at the end of the day, it is The North Face’s decision just like it’s Patagonia’s decision to exclude certain businesses from its client list. And there are probably plenty of other apparel brands that will be happy to fulfill Innovex's order.
Whichever company does so will get a nice little boost.