Archive for March, 2011

Helping Japan: Patience and Peace Winds

Is there really a “one size fits all” garment that looks good on everyone?  I know that I certainly haven’t found one.  Similarly, there’s no “one size fits all” response to natural disasters.  There’s not even a “one size fits most” response.

Each disaster is unique and requires careful assessment of the situation to determine what’s really needed.  Acting too quickly and sending relief items that aren’t really needed can compound disasters by clogging critical supply routes into an impacted country.

All this is to say that figuring out the best way to respond to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 3/11 has been challenging to say the least.  Unlike impoverished Haiti, Japan has a sound infrastructure that is well prepared to respond to natural disasters.  While I sit here following the graphic news updates on the situation unfolding on the ground, feeling desperate to help in some way,  I’m learning that the best thing to do for now may well be to practice patience.

Beyond reaching out to other governments for some search and rescue assistance, the Japanese government has not yet made any international appeals for help.  And if you contact most of the international NGO relief agencies, they are raising funds to support their response … although the direct course of action remains unclear.

So what can a mid-sized outdoor footwear and apparel brand in New Hampshire do to ease the suffering on the other side of the world?  We can be thoughtful, strategic, and patient as we determine our response.  The recovery efforts in Japan will go on for a long time.  While we’re all eager to help now, in the immediate aftermath, we’re closely monitoring the situation so that when the dust settles, we’re ready to help meet the defined needs that emerge.

For now, we’re providing assistance to our Japan employees who were directly impacted by the disaster.  We’re directing those who want to help to a Japanese-based NGO called Peace Winds which is currently actively engaged in the on-the-ground relief effort and is not subject to the same restrictions that may apply to the international NGOs.  We’re letting our employees know that we’re committed to the long term recovery effort in Japan and, when we have more clarity on the greatest needs and how we can best participate, we will activate our community programs and Global Stewards to help with the rebuilding process — focusing particularly on community and environment revitalization such as replanting, rebuilding or clean-up work.  In the meantime, we’re staying in contact with the international relief organizations and letting them know what we can provide so that they know to reach out to us if we can help.

And we’re waiting, like the rest of the world, to see what unfolds for our friends and colleagues in Japan who have endured this disaster with unmatched dignity and grace.

Money & Manpower: We’re Giving Both to One Lucky Boston Nonprofit

Timberland is awarding a $2,500 “Earth Day” grant in April to a Boston-area community organization dedicated to environmental stewardship.

And, that’s not all. We will provide 100 employees to serve with the chosen organization this summer.* You can learn more by watching this:

Interested organizations can apply at the new Timberland store on 201 Newbury Street in Boston or by sending an email to csrinfo@timberland.com. The winning organization and the runner-up will be highlighted in a store display this spring.

To learn more about the Newbury Street store, check out the video we posted last week.

* As part of Timberland’s Path of Service program, full time employees get 40 hours and part time employees get 20 hours of paid time off to serve in their communities.

Step Inside Timberland’s New Boston Store

Last week, we asked Amanda from Timberland’s global brand marketing team, and our friend and noted video blogger Ramsey from our Kansas City-based partner, Digital Evolution Group, to meet up on St. Patrick’s Day on Boston’s famed Newbury Street and check out the new Timberland store.  The 2,500 square foot space, located at 201 Newbury Street (for all of you foursquare addicts), features Timberland-branded footwear, apparel and accessories for men, women and children.

What I thought was going to be an hour-long store visit turned out to be a four-hour excursion that included shopping and lessons in sustainable building design and Boston history. The result though, is priceless. There are so many cool and interesting things in that store, starting with the Spring 2011 product collections – including colorful boat shoes for men and women; and the new Falmouth Cycling Jacket featuring waterproof S Café™ fabric, which is made from 98.5% recycled PET (plastic bottles) and 1.5% recycled coffee grounds. Would you like cream and sugar with that?

Our dynamic duo also unearthed a myriad of features that support our commitment to sustainability, as well as subtle nods to our appreciation for the City of Boston and the history of the building in which the store is situated, which used to be a school house.

This is the first of four videos Amanda and Ramsey created. Join them on their initial peek into the new store by clicking play and be on the lookout in the coming days for their other videos that highlight the latest in-store happenings and cool eco-conscious features.

Timberland Transformation at Royal London Hospital

Selina Chan, a product manager at our International Design Center in London, shared the following service story:

Timberland International Design Centre (IDC) volunteers recently partnered with St. Barts and the Royal College Hospital in Whitechapel, London to refurbish two rooms in their Intensive Care Unit facility. The rooms were in a dire state of repair, and Timberland funded new furniture and decorating equipment to update them to a suitable decor and condition.

Our IDC Timberland team completely renovated the Bereavement Room and the Relative’s Overnight Room. The team showed true dedication and hard work to achieve the superb end result. In total, we served 97 hours collectively for this fantastic cause.

The hospital staff was both emotional and amazed at what we achieved; the results will make such a difference to the unit. In a thank you letter, the hospital matron wrote:

Without exception everyone has commented on how much more appropriate these rooms are now for relatives at what is a time of significant distress for them.  I have often met relatives in these rooms in order to break bad news to them and been embarrassed by the ‘tiredness’ of the décor and furnishings and overwhelming sense of institutionalism in the rooms.  Now they are bright and smart.  They send a visual message to relatives about how much we value them and the contribution they make to the care of our patient and their loved ones that can now match the words we use.

Our thanks to the Timberland IDC team for their effort … and for reminding us that a day’s work can make a lasting difference to others.  To learn more about Barts and The London Charity and read what they had to say about the Timberland service event, please visit their website.

Inspiration in a Rainstorm

“I think we’re crazy in a good way about shoes.”

Timberland’s Senior Creative Director Chris is back, talking about the inspiration our design teams draw from the great outdoors when getting ready to design a new season’s worth of Timberland products.  Tromping around in the rain might not be everyone’s idea of an “inspiration trip,” but hey — we’re the outdoors people.  We live for this stuff.

Going Green in Boston

I’m not Irish, but I’m sure feeling it today.  St. Patrick’s Day in Boston is an unparalleled experience.

No, I’m not downing Guinness at the Black Rose … I’m celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by opening the new Timberland store on Boston’s famed Newbury Street. What’s so green about a shoe store?  In a word, everything.  From the tabletops reclaimed from old athletic bleachers to the recycled stoneware floor tiles to LED lighting and low VOC paints, we’ve designed this store – and the ones like it that will open later this spring in New York and San Francisco – to serve as a real-life example of how we’re working to reduce our environmental footprint and operate our business more responsibly and sustainably.

Despite the St. Paddy’s Day launch and the opportunity it gives us to cleverly (or not) play up the “green” aspects of our store, our commitment to environmental sustainability isn’t a marketing tactic … it’s as much a part of our heritage as Boston itself.  My grandfather started this business as the Abington Shoe Company on Camden Street, just blocks from where our new store is opening today.

I can remember my grandfather stopping to pick up sewing bobbins off the factory floor when I was a kid … as he would pick them up, he’d say, “there’s a penny … there’s a penny …” it wasn’t called recycling in his day, it was called frugality.  Make the best use that you can, for as long as you can, out of what you have – not in order to save the environment, but in order to save a buck.  Three generations later, here we are staring at reclaimed wood countertops and marveling at the shiny new LED light fixtures.  Same value, different outcomes.

Some might argue that it would be cheaper and less complicated to design our new stores with less emphasis on the environmental and more focus on, I dunno, the actual products we’re trying to sell … but then they would be missing the point that businesses today should be doing both.  We don’t have to make a choice between creating beautiful, durable products that perform and operating our business in a way that’s mindful of the environment or our impact on it.  To the contrary — as an brand and a business that makes boots, shoes and gear for the outdoors, it’s in our best interest to help preserve it … and reduce our impact on it, any and every way we can.  Just as every new store puts us more boldly on the map, every step we take to put our environmental values into action – from Earthkeepers products to stores designed with environmental consciousness and consideration – lends credence to the  notion that businesses can and should be a force for environmental good.

In the spirit of environmental responsibility, I can do without the Dirty Water (yech) … but otherwise, the Standells had it right.  Boston, you’re my home … and there’s no place I’d rather be celebrating heritage and values and all things green today.

Canvas Reinvented

After a long winter of hiding under woolen layers, check out the new Timberland products and hear Senior Creative Director, Chris, talk about the inspiration for our spring 2011 product line — “Under Canvas.”

Now. Who’s ready for a sail?

Learn more about Timberland’s use of Bionic® canvas and shop the spring collection here.

Designers Ready? Handbag Awards Accepting Entries

Attention all talented, emerging designers: the Independent Handbag Designer Awards (IHDA), presented by InStyle and Handbag Designer 101, is now accepting submissions for the 5th annual design competition.

For the second year in a row, Timberland is the sponsor of the IHDA’s “Best Green Handbag” category; the winner will receive the chance to collaborate with us to develop a bag for sale in our stores. At Timberland we’re passionate about design, and we’re passionate about protecting the outdoors… we’d love to work with a great designer on putting the two things together in a beautiful, responsible way!

What does the best green handbag consist of? Sustainable, recycled or organic materials (think organic cotton, hemp, bamboo), non-toxic dyes and design components (zippers, buttons, clasps) made from recycled metal or reused pieces.  The best green bag will be completely recyclable at the end of its life.

The entire list of award categories for the 2011 IHDA awards includes:

Best Green Handbag
Best Handbag in Overall Style and Design
InStyle
Red Carpet Ready Evening Bag
Artisan House Award by Isabella Fiore
Best Use of SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS
Best Student Made Handbag Inspired by the colors of vitaminwater
Best Handmade Handbag
Most Socially Responsible Handbag
Audience Fan Favorite

For inspiration, check out the incredible award-winning designs from last year’s competition.  For more details on each award category and to submit your entry, visit IDHA’s website.  The deadline for award submissions is April 30th; winners will be announced on June 15th.

Go get your design on.

Fellowship of Earthkeepers – Class of 2010

The following story of a first-time tree planting experience in the Horqin Desert in Inner Mongolia comes from Arthur Ang, the regional marketing director for Timberland Asia.  Robert learned firsthand how impactful our tree planting initiative can be … not just for the environment and the local community, but for the volunteers themselves:

“You must plant your tree in our Timberland Forest in Horqin.”  Those were one of the first things that my colleagues told me when I joined Timberland.

I understand that we are an outdoor company but an annual trip to the Horqin Desert in Inner Mongolia to plant trees, are we stretching it just a little too much? I was intrigued, thought to myself that maybe there is more to this than just a casual, sightseeing, staff incentive trip.

The more I dug, the more I was impressed by the scale and commitment that we have towards the cause of reforestation globally and in Asia. The fact that we have been planting in Horqin for the past 10+ years (2010 was the 10th Anniversary) and that we planted the millionth tree there last April is truly amazing. What’s more impressive is that we started planting in Horqin even before we had an office or any form of business interest in China — this is so true of our mantra “it’s not what we do, it’s who we are”.

Last August, the marketing team from Timberland’s Asia headquarters, namely Robert Igabille (Trip Leader), Celine Teo and I planned the trip and were supported by the great marketing folks from the individual countries.

We decided to have a hard target of planting 2600 trees. The work would be done by the ‘Fellowship of Earthkeepers – Class of 2010,’ consisting of 129 individuals from all walks of life and from 6 countries.

It was the first time that I would be making the trip and I was totally buzzed the minute I stepped out of the door. The flight to Shenyang Airport was pretty straight forward, and from there it was another 4.5 hour car ride to the hotel that we were to stay in for this trip.  That’s when it started to get interesting.

The more in country we went, the more it was like turning back the clock, the pace, and ways of life became simpler.

It’s somewhat of a reality check and made us appreciate how much access and excess we readily have to technology and means of daily life that these villagers can never imagine existed.

For the next 3 days, bright and early at the crack dawn, together with the guides from Green Network (the NGO that we partner with in Horqin),we were herded into trucks and set off  into the desert. This is when it really hit home. We drove to a place with a huge plaque that says “Timberland Forest- since 2001,” we were told and showed in pictures that the vast expanse of trees in front of us was nothing but desert not long ago … and with the reforestation effort throughout these years, it’s recovered and is now a lush, green forest!

You could feel the sense of pride in the staff from Green Network as well as the members of our group that has been returning to Horqin year after year. For first timers like me, it was really motivating; you can’t help but feel that this is so right and that there is good in the world after all.

We were now really itching to do our part as well.

There were a few scenes during the 3 days of activities that really struck me and that I will always remember, Robert conversing with a local cobbler using the global language of craftsmanship, and making a friend in Inner Mongolia.  He also showed me the area that was planted when he was there in 2006, which was very special.

Robert showing me the trees from 2006.

Celine pointing to the row of seedlings that she planted last year; she started taking pictures of them, enthusiasm that is similar to a parent photographing her child! I could feel happiness when she saw them healthy and growing.

Proud Celine!

Lunch time was always fun, it gave us the opportunity to interact with the local villagers and share a table or mat, sample their local alcohol and foster camaraderie.

There was an unexpected event where the village chief surprised us and presented a flag to Stewart (Timberland’s vice president and managing director of Asia) as a token of appreciation for our efforts throughout the years and for improving the living conditions as well as providing a source of employment for the villagers.  This was really special.

However – the image that will always stay with me would be the one where everyone formed a human chain and watered every single tree that we planted; the cheering started from the first tree till the last (no joke!). That to me is when we truly demonstrated the meaning of  “The Fellowship of Earthkeepers.”

In reflection, being in a privileged position that helps set the vision of this program, I came away with an immense sense of pride as well as duty towards the good work that has already been done and realization that more has to be done.

The villagers as well as people in the town were skeptical of our intentions and commitment in the beginning but over time, they have come to realize our genuine good intentions, and now it’s a partnership based on trust and full of warmth.

It’s really satisfying to know that through our actions, the living conditions have improved as the trees have been effective in reducing the impact of sand storms, and it has also created jobs for the people throughout these years. Together with Green Network, we will continue to help in both areas.  We are committed to planting another 2 million trees in the next 10years (doubling our rate) and also exploring ways to further improve the living standard of the villagers, such as with a pilot project on growing cash crops like sweet corn.

In short, the reforestation of Horqin is not just about the environment and trees, it’s also about the human connection that comes with it, the bonding and the common understanding that we can play a part and do good …  not just for the time that we are in Horqin, but as an approach to practice in daily life.

I’m very proud to be part of this Fellowship of Earthkeepers. I believe that Commerce and Justice can co-exist, and it’s up to every individual to play their part.

In the spirit of The Timberland Forest in Horqin – 1 million Done, 2 Million More.


Competitors Collaborating for Industry Change

Several years ago our CEO Jeff Swartz, inspired by nutrition labels on food packaging, suggested we come up with a label for telling our consumers the environmental good and bad associated with our product.  Thus grew the Green Index, which is our rating for the environmental impacts associated with our footwear.  What started as a small manual initiative has expanded to the point where, in the near future, we’ll be able to score all our shoes automatically.  This is a great accomplishment that will help us make better, more environmentally minded decisions about our product.

While we were making these strides internally, REI (the largest outdoor retailer in the US) took notice.  In 2006, their corporate executives met individually with the major brands at the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow to share our Green Index initiative and ask if they would help make it an industry initiative.

“Imagine,” said the head of product integrity at REI, “if we all measured and informed consumers about the environmental impact of our products.  That would spur sustainable innovation and dramatically improve the environmental performance of our supply chain.”

The brands they rallied met with us in the basement of a food co-op in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Talk about grassroots!  What’s evolved since is an international collaboration of the US and European outdoor industries, the Sustainable Fashion Consortium in Hong Kong; the World Federation of Sporting Goods; the snow and water sports industries and others — more than 200 brands in our industry alone, including everyone from the North Face and Patagonia to Petzl.  Our group, called the Eco Working Group, has developed an industry version of the Green Index – an index that can be applied to any type of product be it a tent or a pair of shoes.   It was rated one of the 10 Most Hopeful Green Business Stories of 2010 by GreenBiz.com.

It hasn’t been an easy path to get so many different brands with such diverse products to collaborate, but the process has created a terrific product and drawn attention from surprising organizations.  Walmart is one.  This week they along with Gap; Nike; H&M; Levi Strauss; Adidas; Target and other global leaders in the apparel and footwear industry announced that they are collaborating with our Outdoor Industry effort to adopt our index as a common means to measure and improve the environmental performance of our supply chain.  While we still have a way to go to get to Jeff’s vision of a label that allows consumers to compare the goodness of shoes, like food … we just got one long step closer.

Timberland + Outdoor Industry + world’s largest apparel retailers = promise of sustainable change.