Archive for May, 2010

Up In Smoke

So, how about another CEO blog on the debacle of “health care reform” in the tortured, partisan nation of America?  Nah… I am gainfully employed running our business, so no time to indulge in the practically pornographic vitriol perfuming the civic square from the Left and the Right; I get paid to deliver sustainable results for our shareholders, a mix of financial profit and civic accountability.  Which is why the overwrought, dishonest “debate” about health care pisses me off so much—if the demagogues on both sides bleat less and seek real solutions more, maybe we could deliver health care for citizens in a sensible fashion.

Here’s a simple case in point.

At our company, turns out that health costs spiral most viciously for two populations—the employee who lives a self-indulgent unhealthy lifestyle (the overweight, outta shape exec) and the employees (cigarette smokers) who buy into the load of crap that Phillip Morris sells (like the idea that smelling like an ash tray is sexy).

Hey, this is New Hampshire on the line, so live free or die—but this is also Timberland, Stratham NH 03855, make your own choice about smoking, but not at work.  We’re not paying for poor choices any more in the form of inflated health costs.  Doesn’t take a politician to figure this one out; don’t need tea parties or white wine spritzer parties- No more smoking at Timberland.

In the scheme of what I can do to run my business more competitively, efficiently and responsibly — this is what consultants call low-hanging fruit.  No more “butt-huts,” no more duck-outside-the-back-door-for-a-quick-cigarette leniencies, no more validating unhealthy choices.  No phony cost saving estimates from politicians—the CEO either reduces health costs, or delivers lower profits and bears that accountability more directly than a mid-term election.  So—no more smoking anywhere on Timberland real estate.

Is this mandate going to upset a subset of our population who don’t agree with my logic or my action?  Undoubtedly.  But I am not pursuing overnight polling–as a CEO committed to the notion of responsibility — for my business, for employees, for the environment — I’ll take my lumps on this one.  Talk is cheap and action is hard – and I’m perfectly comfortable and unapologetic about choosing hard in this case.  Call me names, but don’t call me inert.  Our smoking ban takes effect next Monday – not coincidentally, World No Tobacco Day.

And a smoking ban has to be the beginning, not the end, of this effort to force accountability into the health care system.  Why shouldn’t we eliminate unhealthy foods—the over-processed, nutrition hollow “snacks” that big brands shove at consumers globally—from vending machines and corporate cafeterias at TBL?  We’ve already begun beefing up our health and wellness program offerings, including creating real, concrete, financial incentives for employees to live a more healthy lifestyle.  Exercise and eat healthy, and you pay lower employee contributions to our health plan.  Self destruct on snacks and sodas on your sofa while blowing smoke rings—your choice, but expect to pay for those choices in health premiums at work.

Yeah, I can hear the criticisms—I sound angry at the government for so badly managing “health care,” and I sound pretty worked up about individuals at TBL taking more responsibility for the choices in their life that impact the costs of our health programs.  I know that there is a line between advocating and interfering, between respecting personal choices and doing what’s in the best interest of our business.  How close am I to these lines?

Last summer I proudly announced our corporate bottled water ban, and I got lots of love letters from fellow CEOs in the bottled water business, letting me know that my slot on their holiday card list was rescinded.  Tant pis.

So, with no smoking at Timberland, we square the circle—fire and water.  We aren’t hugging trees here—we’re trying to run a sustainable business.  Feedback appreciated.

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland

Haiti Dispatch #3: First Steps

Below, the final installment of our Haiti Dispatches — a 3-part series documenting the recent journey to Haiti made by Timberland’s CEO Jeff Swartz and other leaders seeking to leverage their strength and create a positive impact.

Amidst continuing hunger and homelessness, the group did find signs of hope — examples of innovation, collaboration and indomitable human spirit that will help to take Haiti take its first steps forward into a more sustainable future.

Mangroves in Malaysia

On Earth Day 2010, Timberland employees and partners in Malaysia spent the day planting mangrove trees at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park — an 800 acre park that provides sanctuary for a wide range of flora and fauna, such as the endangered Silvered Leaf Monkey.  The park also acts as an important stopover for migratory birds flying in from as far as Siberia on their way to Australia.

Mangrove planting is one of the most important Earthkeeping activities at the park, as mangroves act as natural flood retention and also serve as a filter to hold sediment along riverbanks, preventing erosion and helping to reduce water pollution.  Mangroves also provide a safe breeding and nursery ground for birds, young fish, seashells, prawns, mud lobster, crabs and other wildlife.

Our thanks to Earthkeeper Michael, an assistant retail manager for Timberland in Malaysia and an expert mangrove planter, for demonstrating the right way to get the job done:


Haiti Dispatch #2: Preparing for Rain

Video#2 of the Haiti Dispatches … a 3-part series chronicling the recent trip to Haiti taken by a delegation of leaders committed to helping the nation repair and rebuild.

Personal accounts of the trip, written by Timberland’s CEO Jeff Swartz and others, can be read on

Ethical Corporation Honors Sustainable Businesses

At the Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Summit held earlier this month, 20 organizations and individuals were honored for their commitment to innovative practices in corporate responsibility.

Timberland was proud to be among the honorees, recognized for our Don’t Tell Us It Can’t Be Done campaign which encouraged consumers to voice their support for world leaders attending COP15 to set meaningful climate standards. While COP 15 didn’t produce the outcomes we were all hoping for, our campaign succeeded as a means of actively engaging consumers in the climate change issue – powerful progress, in our book.

Other companies doing good things and earning recognition as 2010 Responsible Business Summit award winners include:

PepsiCo, for their direct seeding of rice technology – an innovation that has resulted in a savings of 5.5 billion liters of water in India (among the largest rice growers in the world) and has helped Pepsi achieve “positive water balance” – meaning that they are actually giving back more water than their business consumes.

Continental Clothing, for their EarthPositive® Apparel. This organically and ethically-made product line was launched in 2008 and incorporates best practices to reduce the social and environmental damage normally associated with cotton farming and textile production. The line is manufactured solely using sustainable energy generated from wind power.

Produce World for their innovative approach to sustainability reporting, which includes a web portal which gives stakeholders access to unedited, real-time data about the company’s performance (including carbon and water intensity, accident frequency and waste management) on a site by site, month by month basis against each of the company’s social and environmental KPIs.

We find Ethical Corp’s awards particularly endearing because they include a “Greenwasher of the Year” award to recognize an organization (based on judges’ choice, not entries) that “continues to do considerable environmental damage whilst professing to be sustainable.”  Sometimes recognizing the bad is as important as recognizing the good.

For a complete list of this year’s Responsible Business Summit honorees and their award-winning initiatives, visit

Haiti Dispatch #1: A Persistent Need

In April 2010, a delegation of leaders traveled to Haiti to bear witness to the post-earthquake devastation and share their individual strengths with a country in need. What they found 3 months after the natural disaster was overwhelming hunger and homelessness, as well as devastation of both the land and its people.

The following video is the first in a 3-part series documenting this group’s journey. Stay tuned for additional videos … and visit Huffington Post’s Haiti Blog for additional commentary from Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz and others.

Ceres Sustainability Reporting Awards

At the annual Ceres conference held earlier this week, Timberland was very proud to accept the award for the Best Sustainability Report.  We’re honored to receive this important recognition, particularly considering the first-class caliber of contenders we were up against, including:

Ford Motor Company
(First Runner Up, Best Sustainability Report)

Ford’s 2008-09 Blueprint for Sustainability Report addresses the fundamental challenge of sustainability and includes candid discussion about Ford’s past performance, mistakes made and how they’re working to further integrate sustainability into their business model.

Seventh Generation

(Best  Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Report)

Seventh Gen’s 2008 Corporate Consciousness Report includes focus on two key considerations for sustainable business: supply chain and competition.  The report features an in-depth discussion about how the company engages with its manufacturing partners to improve sustainability performance, as well as how it uses industry collaboration to create positive change.

The fact that the Ceres-ACCA Reporting Awards program is ten years old and counting is testament itself that there is a real need for and interest in business communicating openly and honestly about its efforts to create positive environmental and social impact.  We’ve drawn insight and inspiration from past award recipients, and we hope we can live up to their leadership and do the same for other organizations.

For more information about the Ceres-ACCA Reporting Awards, click here.

Engaging and Empowering for Positive Change

Earthkeeping isn’t all about treating the environment with kindness and respect … it’s about caring for the people who share the environment with us in the same way.

There is a great article by Dan Viederman, Executive Director for  Verité, in McKinsey & Company’s “What Matters” publication.  In it, Dan speaks about the power of worker empowerment and engagement, based on work that Verité has done for the past several years, dating back to pilot programs they conducted with Timberland in 2006 in some of our supply chain factories in China.

Based on our own experiences, I echo Dan’s sentiments about the important role worker engagement can play in instilling worker empowerment, and about the need to scale that work.  Since our pilots in 2006, Timberland has rolled the approach out globally and we now formally engage workers in the assessment process in 100% of our factories.  Last year we published a paper that outlines in detail our approach, hoping to inspire others to move from compliance audits to collaborative worker-engaged platforms.

Thoughts about Dan’s article, questions about Timberland’s own approach?  Please feel free to share them here.

Colleen Von Haden
Senior Manager, Code of Conduct