Archive for October, 2009

Service with a Smile

If the cliche is true and a picture really is worth a thousand words, then we ‘re saving ourselves a lot of writing by sharing the following video with you.  It depicts the spirit and the impact of our annual Serv-a-palooza event more powerfully than written words could … plus it’s more fun to look at.

Eco-dining at its Best: Primo

The following blog post comes from our very good friends over at Green Living Project (GLP), a non-profit organization that films sustainable programs across the world for inspirational and educational purposes.  In GLP’s two-year history, the organization has documented over thirty diverse projects in ten countries across Latin America and Africa.  This past August, Adrienne Rosenberg joined Green Living Project’s first domestic trip, which showcased a myriad of inspiring sustainable initiatives across the state of Maine .

As I sat on the back steps of the renovated Victorian house, a line cook caught my eye as he hopped over the salvia and lunged around the basil to snip a few sprigs of mint. At any other restaurant, if you are out of an ingredient, you are out of luck- but not Primo. Primo restaurant , co-owned by Chef Melissa Kelly and Pastry Chef Price Kushner, strives to pleasantly blend the ideals of sustainability with palate-savoring pleasures.

Like many students desperate for a quick financial fix, I have made my circulations in restaurants across the nation, often experiencing the same harrowing episodes: a chef with a large ego, quick hands to dump “waste” from plates, customers oblivious to the substandard food cultivation, piles of the same-ole, imported Sysco ingredients, and a sort of impassive, nightly performance by the wait staff. But at Primo, diners receive an unparallel experience of local, organic Portland fare.

The cuisine brilliance begins and ends on the four-acre garden. Unlike other restaurants, Primo’s gardeners decide each morning what seasonal produce is ripe for the evening’s delights. Pulsing with life, the garden also provides chickens, herbs, grapes, edible flowers, honey, and even hops. True to their commitment to local ingredients, Primo also purchases its seafood from Portland fishermen. By the end of the night, the pigs feast on the ensuing compost of uneaten food or organic waste from the kitchen.

Primo’s garden provides much of the bounty that ends up in its dining room

In addition, Primo invites guests to explore the garden so they may come into contact with the elements that will later arrive at their table. As Melissa remarked, so often chefs will put their ego on a plate. Her philosophy, however, is to fashion her dishes so they teach others about where food comes from and how it is grown.

Inside the kitchen, Primo hosts several line cook stations, a pastry prep area, expo tables, a wood fired oven, and a downstairs prep room complete with storage and a batch of brewing beer. The chalkboard-painted door at the top of the stairs lists the specials for the night as well as displays a flyer on “How to Become Green”.

Primo’s décor pleasantly complements the organic, robust flavors of each dish. Downstairs exhibits rustic merlot colored walls and a traditional dining set up along with several art pieces while upstairs has a contrasting chicness with wrap-around couches, rectangular shaped designs, and a copper bar. Primo also seamlessly excels at energy efficiency and water conservation through their use of Maine produced biofuel as well as dual flush and waterless urinals.

After a long afternoon of dodging the staff while filming the high action atmosphere of the kitchen, Green Living Project was able to relax to fork fulls of scrumptious fresh cuisine, such as the house special baked oysters and the black spaghetti with braised cuttlefish and heirloom tomatoes, knowing that a majority of the ingredients were sustainably harvested only yards away from our table.

Adrienne Rosenberg
Green Living Project

Earthkeeping in the Dominican Republic

The following post was shared with us by Juan Rodriguez, the senior HR manager at Timberland’s Recreational Footwear Company (our manufacturing facility located in the Dominican Republic).  Thank you, Juan, for a wonderful story — and pictures — of cross-collaborative service and sharing the best of what we do with Timberland partners and community neighbors alike.

During the first week of October, Timberland invited 23 key customers and franchise partners from Italy and Spain to the Dominican Republic for a special “Timberland experience” – including a visit to both our manufacturing facilities in Santiago, DR and a local tannery, and a day of community service.

Timberland partners get a hands-on lesson in bootmaking in our DR factory

The service day took place in Villa Gonzalez, a town close to the Timberland factory. The project consisted of painting and repairing a basketball court used by the Villa Gonzalez community. In addition to the European visitors, other community members also participated in the activity.

Repairing and repainting the community basketball court

The service day was hot and sunny … but at the end of the afternoon, all of the volunteers had the satisfaction of making a difference for the young people of the community — some of whom were present at the service event, working shoulder to shoulder with the European group and at the end of the day were excited and grateful for the work accomplished.

Earthkeeping volunteers leaving their footprint on the Villa Gonzalez community

Update From the Amazon

So when 65,000 new friends introduce themselves to your e-mailbox in a week, endlessly resending a form letter written by Greenpeace accusing your company of being part of the deforestation of the precious ecosystem called the Amazon rainforest, what would you do?

To understand Greenpeace’s assertion that our business practice directly leads to deforestation in the Amazon, you’ve first got to know that it is cattle ranching that is causing the deforestation — ranchers cutting down the forest in order to allow livestock to graze. That livestock is raised primarily for tailgate hotdogs or your mom’s meatloaf recipe — not for leather.  Leather is a co-product of beef which accounts for less than 10% of what a farmer gets paid for his cow.  The hides that result from raising cattle for food become the raw materials which Timberland’s suppliers turn into leather for our footwear.  Further facts — we source about 7% of the leather for our products from Brazil — obviously, a small percentage of our overall need.  And finally, in our industry, best practice for diligent brands that focus on the social/civic aspects of their value chain audit and manage processes and materials back to the tannery — but not all the way back to the cattle production process.  To accurately assess our role in the issue requires working backward up the supply chain, through the tannery who is our supplier, to another company, the beef processor in Brazil, in order to know where the cows grazed.

Given that we don’t have “trace-ability” in the value chain back to the cow grazing in the field, it would have been infinitely easier, when Greenpeace first brought the issue to our mailbox, to simply stop doing business with our Brazilian supplier.  No more leather from Brazil, no more issues with tracing hides which may have come from cows grazing in deforested areas of the Amazon rainforest.  We’re only talking about 7% of our production — so cut and run, right?

Tempting, but not the right thing to do. Disengaging would have solved OUR problem — no more headaches or emails from angry activists — but would do nothing to solve the problem of deforestation.  Even as we fumed at the way Greenpeace had approached this issue we asked ourselves, what is the responsible thing to do?  Do we walk away and let the beef processors sort this out with Greenpeace, or do we risk further ire, by staying in the conversation and engaging the leather tanner and the beef processor to solve the real environmental challenge?  What would you choose to do?

We decided to stay engaged.  We pressed our Brazilian leather supplier, Bertin, for a plan that would answer the challenge posed — demonstrate that the cattle grazing in the field were not contributing to deforestation.  Find a way to ensure trace-ability back into the value chain — now.  For a brand with only the leverage of our small percentage of overall Brazilian leather purchases, we tried.  And to Bertin’s credit — they have engaged with us to the same end.

Three months later, real progress to report. Bertin has made great strides in its commitment to supporting the deforestation moratorium, including meeting face-to-face with both Timberland and Greenpeace to better understand the problem and discuss proposed improvements.  Last month Bertin publicly announced their official Amazon cattle moratorium (meaning they will no longer source cattle from protected areas of the Amazon) and is working aggressively to meet traceability targets to ensure the origin of all the cattle they source is acceptable and not contributing to Amazon deforestation.

Prodded by Greenpeace, and encouraged by Bertin’s willingness to make real change, we have bent our efforts to address the issue of Amazon deforestation on an industry level, working with other members of the Leather Working Group (LWG) – a multi-stakeholder group which seeks to promote sustainable environmental business practices within the footwear leather industry.  The LWG recently proposed creating an HWG (Hide Working Group) [I’m not making these acronyms up!]  to create an assessment process specific to hide traceability – similar to the process the LWG uses to work with tanneries on environmental issues within the tanneries themselves.  Bertin has indicated that they will engage in the HWG, as will other tanneries and many brands, including some of our arch competitors like Nike and Adidas.

It’s easy to provide a neat summary of progress against a complex issue in a few short paragraphs; the work behind the words has been much more challenging, demanding tons of time, effort and resources — from the CEO and a whole group of activists within the company. For its part, Greenpeace has done an outstanding job gathering data, creating a complete and compelling case for the issue, and mobilizing its tens of thousands of supporters to call for action from brands like ours on an issue they care about.  Their effort has driven change into the system.  We applaud their activism, even as we wish next time—and there will be a next time, in the complex global value chain — they would seek to engage brands like ours before they pull the “let’s confront ‘em” lever.

As for our supplier, Bertin – now one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of animal products – to implement concrete changes in its own policies and processes in such short order is nothing less than impressive.  We’re proud to partner with an organization that views environmental responsibility as critically and urgently as we do.

Business can be a force for positive environmental change … collaboration yields more powerful outcomes than the effort of one … learnings reinforced by our experience to date on the Amazon deforestation issue.  We’re not closing the book on this topic yet – we’ll continue to monitor progress through regular reports from Bertin and through our work with the LWG and HWG, and we’ll continue to share milestones and challenges with you here on Earthkeepers.

CEO thanks Greenpeace for full frontal email assault?  Next thing you know, world leaders will actually come up with a meaningful global agreement at Copenhagen…

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland

Big Think

We’re happy to share the following recent interview with Timberland’s President & CEO Jeff Swartz — a frequent Earthkeeper guest blogger and the guy responsible for giving passion and permission to many of our efforts to create environmental and social impact.  The interview covers everything from Jeff’s thoughts on building the brand to banning bottled water, the power of partnerships and what keeps him up at night:

Our thanks to the team at Big Think for sharing with us.

Reporting on Responsibility

Today we released our 2007-2008 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report — chock full of information about Timberland’s performance, successes, challenges, and forward-looking goals for each of our four CSR focus areas (energy, product, workplaces and service).

This bi-annual report is a more comprehensive compliment to our quarterly reporting efforts , and is designed to create a two-way dialogue for collecting feedback about our CSR initiatives.   Readers are invited to share their feedback and ideas for improvement through the "Voices of Challenge " — a dynamic online forum created to engage thought leaders, practitioners, NGOs, investors, students and consumers on specific CSR challenges facing the business community.  To jumpstart the online dialogue, we’ve invited thought leaders like Bill McKibben , Joel Makower , Li Qiang and New York City Mayor Bloomberg to weigh in.

We’re excited to share our new CSR report with all of our Earthkeeper readers, and invite you to give it a read and also join the Voices of Challenge conversation .  Feedback, questions and challenges are also welcome here on the Earthkeeper blog.

Happy Campers

One of the 150+ community service projects that took place across the globe last week as part of Timberland’s 12th annual Serv-a-palooza was at a YMCA camp not far from our NH headquarters.  Each summer the camp is home to over 100 kids, many of them inner-city residents who otherwise might not have an opportunity to camp, canoe or experience the great outdoors firsthand … and learn valuable life skills in the process.

100 Timberland employees descended on the camp last week to help with fall clean-up and winter preparation, as well as some new construction projects which will benefit next summer’s campers.

Ready to Serve

Although our team in Egypt got a jump on the rest of us, for most of the Timberland community tomorrow is Serv-a-palooza – our worldwide, annual day of community service.  For the 12th year in a row, Timberland employees across the globe will be working alongside business partners and citizens to create positive, sustainable impact in local communities.

“Impact” can be vague.  Here’s what it means for us, in Serv-a-palooza terms:

  • 3,800 volunteers at 154 projects in more than 24 countries – committing more than 30,0000 hours of community service.
  • Planting trees, building bridges, constructing recreational parks, cleaning trails and gardens, building compost bins, fences and relationships that matter … 
  • Making life a little better and a little brighter for the camps, parks, social service organizations, environmental agencies and other community partners who will benefit from our sweat and labor, time and tools.

We haven’t maintained our 12-year-and-counting commitment to Serv-a-palooza because we love the publicity, or the community gratitude, or a day off from our regular jobs (although those are all nice perks).  We do it because we can, because one day can make a difference, because being part of something good just plain feels good. 

Stay tuned for post-Palooza reports and photos … and to join us for similar service adventures, register for project updates and invitations on Earthkeeper.com.

Warrior Wyclef

Our thanks to the Earthkeepers who came out to help us celebrate our partnership with Wyclef Jean in New York last week — we’re still recovering.  Those of you who missed it, never fear – we captured a few key moments on film:

For more information on the Timberland / Wyclef collaboration (and to register to be notified when the Yele Haiti boots hit stores), visit Earthkeeper.com .

Our Newest Earthkeeper Hero: Wyclef Jean

If a tree grows in the forest but no one is there to see it … do you still get credit for planting it?

Not according to Timberland’s board of directors, who for a long time have provided the not-so-gentle feedback that everything we do to make the world a better place matters very little if our consumers don’t know we’re doing it.  They’re not advising that we stop acting as a responsible corporate citizen, mind you – just that we need to work harder to connect our civic values with our business goals.  Fair enough feedback, which encouraged us to seek meaningful partnerships with credible voices to help tell our corporate responsibility story in a way that resonates with consumers.

Fast-forward to today, when we’re thrilled to announce a creative collaboration between Timberland and Wyclef Jean – a social entrepreneur, a humanitarian and an Earthkeeper Hero of the highest degree who has invested incredible time and effort in rebuilding and reforesting his native Haiti.  Wyclef also happens to be a Grammy Award-winning musician with fans and followers all over the world – the kind of “voice” that adds considerable volume to our story — but our collaboration runs deeper and richer than some rent-a-celebrity endorsement deal.  We’ve spent a good deal of time over the past year getting to know Wyclef and learning more about his passion for social and environmental justice — and sharing our beliefs and values with him — and we’ve come to the mutual realization that we’ve got the ingredients here for something that could be pretty powerful, and pretty good.

Central to this partnership is our shared interest in reforestation; Timberland is involved in tree-planting programs all over the world, and working with Wyclef’s Yele Haiti Foundation, we’re going to build a tree nursery in Gonaives, a city in northern Haiti devastated by Hurricane Hannah in 2008.  Once up and running, the nursery will be managed by local farmers and trees will be sold (generating revenue with which to buy more trees) or used to reforest the hillsides surrounding the city.

As for telling the story in a powerful way to consumers, we’re going to start with what we know best: building boots.  Beginning next month, consumers will be able to purchase products from Timberland’s Yele Haiti footwear collection – made from recycled and organic materials and featuring design elements we collaborated on with Wyclef himself.  For every pair sold, $2 will be donated to Wyclef’s Yele Haiti Foundation to support the reforestation efforts.  I’m psyched about the collection; it’s a perfect proof point to a conversation we’ve been having for some time with consumers about the fact that you don’t have to compromise – you can buy a pair of good-looking shoes with a good fit at the right price and also help save the world.  The Yele Haiti footwear will allow consumers to do just that.

There are lots of other good ideas wrapped into our partnership with Wyclef – t-shirts designed by Haitian art students that we’ll sell (with a portion of the proceeds going to Yele Haiti); exclusive Wyclef music downloads on our website; other tree-planting events in the US and Europe.  Our hope is that cumulatively, all of these activities will raise our voice on the importance of community building and environmental stewardship, in Haiti as well as the rest of the world … and that by incorporating all these diverse elements – a boot, a shirt, a new music single, a tree-planting event – everyone who comes into contact with the Timberland / Wyclef Jean collaboration will find something to love, something that resonates, something that inspires them to take action with us.

Timberland makes boots, Wyclef makes music – and that wouldn’t change with or without this partnership.  But together we can make money, both for our businesses and for people and communities in need.  And we can make a difference.  This — the intersection of commerce and justice, collaborating for sustainable impact – this is Earthkeeping at its best.  We’re happy to share it with you.

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland