Archive for April, 2011

The Best Video You’ll See Today That Doesn’t Include Royalty or Fancy Hats

Need to clear your head after a long day of Royal Wedding watching?  It’s Arbor Day — see what people had to say about this under-appreciated, under-celebrated and important holiday.

By the way — there were eight 20-foot high trees lining the aisle to the altar at Westminster Abbey for the big event today.  Coincidence?  I think not.

From Awkward Collaboration, Transformative Change

I believe that the current paradigm of problem solving in the civic square is inadequate; what results from the uncoordinated efforts of well intended “players” in the world around us stares us in the face and indicts us for our limited imaginations. As a small company with big dreams, we have known from the get go that only by collaborating—with NGOs, with activists, with critics, with governments, and even with competitors—only through an engaged stakeholder network will we leverage real and sustainable change.  Building this paradigm, of awkward collaboration, is incredibly frustrating and potentially transformative.

Case in point: last summer, as part of our on-going, quarterly stakeholder engagement process, we hosted a stakeholder discussion (The Need for Product Comparability) regarding the role of environmental labeling on products in the outdoor industry.  We hosted critics, activists, thought leaders, and practitioners.  I co-hosted the call with a passionate outdoor retailer, a sustainable leader in retailing — MEC CEO David Labistour.  In the process of engaging stakeholders, we confronted real, vexing questions — as for instance, whether our industry should put an environmental label on all products starting yesterday, or whether we should focus more of our industry efforts on perfecting standards and measures and methodologies.  And underlying the discussion were months, literally months, of head-breaking conversations and negotiations within the Outdoor Industry Association, all aimed at developing and implementing an industry-wide label and metrics—the OIA Eco Index.  For an entrepreneur, for a person of principle—all this process, all this negotiating with stakeholders, all this consensus building is back breaking and worse—but as a small company with big dreams, we know that only through this paradigm of awkward collaboration are we going to make sustainable change.  The OIA will get its Eco Index built and implemented—in part because un-natural collaborators (arch competitors like Timberland and Nike and Patagonia, or customer/suppliers like Timberland and MEC) are doing the awkward work of real collaboration.

Establishing meaningful dialogue in order to change the old problem-solving paradigm can be awkward in its own right.  Out of a passionate blog post I wrote grew a real conversation with a principled competitor — Jochen Zeitz, the Chief Sustainability Officer of PPR.  Credit to Mr. Zeitz for reaching out and establishing a conversation, which discovered a shared urgency around the need for deliberate collaboration in an industry that can be fiercely insular. In the last 10 years, we have spent time with our competitors and with our suppliers and with our customers—awkward collaborations, most of those– to share information, dig deep, and see what we can learn from each other. In every instance I’ve come away learning something, better for the process.

And now, I’m set to do it again. Thank you, Mr. Zeitz, for taking the time to call – I look forward to meeting in Germany, and beginning in earnest the awkward dance of collaboration that drives sustainable change.

Bringing Back Arbor Day

Happy Arbor Day!

You don’t hear that very often these days.  Like a lot of things in life, traditional, straightforward old Arbor Day has been bested by a newer, younger, shinier competitor – Earth Day.  It’s Bugs Bunny vs. SpongeBob; K-Mart vs. Target; scotch vs. vodka; bowling vs. Wii bowling.  And to make matters worse, Arbor Day is a week after Earth Day which is like throwing a big party on January 2nd, or seeing fireworks on July 8th.  Tough to motivate…

And like the hottest new act or the trendiest designer, everyone wants a piece of Earth Day – green leaders, celebs, brands, bands, politicians, media companies and anyone looking to bask in the (environmentally-friendly) glow of Earth Day.   The gang’s all there.

That’s certainly not a bad thing – it’s a great thing.  Great that for a day at least, the big focus in our world is… our world.  Great that maybe it turns some “no-greens” into  “light greens” who will do their small part going forward.  Great for the Timberland brand, since we need the outdoors to stay great — or you don’t really need us anymore.

But at Timberland, we actually like authentic, traditional stuff.   Not stodgy or dated or out-of touch or boring, of course, but there’s something to the idea of simplicity – of basic, timeless activities done well or re-invented.   Like bootmaking, say.

So this year, we’re naming ourselves the Official Worldwide Footwear, Apparel, and Accessories Sponsor of Arbor Day. OK, not really – we’re not sure that’s actually legal without paying a fee to someone … but the thought is there.  At least for a day, we’re going to elevate Arbor Day because even though they give shade, trees deserve their day in the sun.  (I literally just made that up).

So why are we doing this?   A couple of reasons…

  • Our logo is a tree. Our first word is Timber.  Our second word is Land.  Not super-complicated.
  • We think trees are important. We’ve been planting them for 10 years in places like the Horqin Desert in China where reforestation is a critical issue.  Our six nurseries in Haiti are up and running and providing sustainable fuel and food for people in need.  For a large portion of the world, lack of trees is creating monumental environmental issues.
  • We like getting people involved with our brand.  We love to sell outdoor gear, but we also like making small differences.  Our CEO calls it “doing well while doing good” – the idea that you can mix commerce and justice if you just try a little harder.  And if you do, people will want to join in.

So, as the Official Worldwide Footwear, Apparel, and Accessories Sponsor of Arbor Day, we invite you to come join us for a few, easy-to-do activities on April 29th:

  • Plant a tree with us. If you can click, you can plant. With our virtual tree planting application on Facebook, just set up your own virtual forest, get your friends to stop by and help, and we’ll plant a real tree for every virtual one you plant.   No dirt, no mess, no need to do laundry.
  • Find out what kind of tree you are with our “Hortiscope” quiz on Facebook.   I’m an Oak, and apparently I’m “robust.”  That seems pretty good.  Better than a weeping willow, I suppose.
  • Check out our “Arbor What?” video on YouTube to see just how unknown and under-celebrated the holiday really is.

There’s a reason why trees got their own day 139 years ago – help remember why on April 29th.  Take a 10-minute break from watching Royal Wedding videos, click on over and plant one on us.  There’s just a small amount of pomp and no circumstance, but you’ll make a small difference.

Newbury Street Store Grant and Service Event Winner!

To celebrate the opening of our new store at 201 Newbury Street in Boston, we invited non–profit environmentally-focused organizations serving Boston through preservation, conservation, or the expansion of green spaces to apply for the opportunity to win a $2,500 grant and a summertime service event with 50-100 Timberland volunteers.  The response was tremendous and the visions for “greening” Boston were inspiring in scope and diversity. Our committee members were challenged to select just one grantee and asked that we shared their respect and regard for each applicant’s leadership and commitment to community.

After much deliberation, we’re thrilled to announce that we selected Friends of Nira Rock for partnership this summer. We were struck by this beautiful hidden gem of a park in Jamaica Plain.  As the application said:  “No other space provides its amazing array of experience (apple picking, outdoor yoga, rock climbing, etc,) on such an accessible, compact footprint.”  Join us in discovering this green oasis in the city.  We’ll be sure to keep you posted as our plans for our summer time service event evolve.

We were so inspired by what we read that we decided to award smaller grants to the following organizations:

Finally, we entered all applicants into a drawing and selected two winners of a $250 Home Depot gift card each — Boston Centers for Youth and Families and Boston Harbor Island Alliance.  We also offered to pass along all the applications to another company that we know is looking to engage in the Boston community — there’s nothing like sharing the joy!

Thank you to all who applied and congratulations to all of our winners!

The Evolution of Earth Day

It used to be that most Timberland employees worldwide celebrated Earth Day on or as close to April 22 as possible. I would wake up in New Hampshire and pull on my boots, jeans and service T-shirt, knowing that my colleagues in Asia were kicking their feet up after a hard day of service, that my European friends were in the post-lunch service push to get everything done before the end of the day, and that our West Coast teams would close the wave of service a few hours after us.

Over the past few years, we’ve added more flexibility to our global Earth Day events to maximize our impact and employee participation, and in recognition that it simply isn’t possible for every service project we lead across the globe to take place on the same day or even in the same week.

For example, the success of our tree planting projects (in support of our company’s commitment to reforestation) is much more dependent on seasonal weather than a date on the calendar:

Our team in China kicked off our global Earth Day “season” on April 1 by planting 350 trees – a continuation of the “Great Green Wall” program we launched a year ago. Meanwhile in India, it’s just too darn hot this time of year to put fledgling trees in the ground and expect them to survive. For that reason, our Indian colleagues will celebrate Earth Day in a couple of months when the weather will better sustain newly planted trees.

Somewhere between our events and China and India, other Timberland Earth Day events will take place. Projects and locations include:

  • New York, NY: Timberland is partnering with GrowNYC to help maintain the Wanaqua Family Garden in the Bronx – a 10,000 square foot plot of land that contains 20 community vegetable beds as well as a children’s garden where students and area residents come to visit. Some planned activities for the day include digging post holes for a shade structure, planting vegetables with students, cleaning up wrought iron fencing and planting garden boxes.
  • Madrid, Spain: We’re working with the Madridejos City Hall to plant 300 trees and build a fence to protect the area. Timberland’s 15 volunteers will be joined by 40 students who will engage in an environmental activity to learn the importance of reforestation and environmental protection.
  • Santiago, Dominican Republic: Approximately 300 Timberland volunteers will be joined by over 100 partners and community volunteers to plant 5,000 – 7,000 trees in “Rafey’s Park” in Santiago City. This project marks the continuation of an ongoing effort to reforest the park.
  • Dover, NH: 75 Timberland volunteers will serve at the Horne Street School in Dover, landscaping the area to complement the school’s newly renovated environmentally-efficient building. Sustainable landscape improvements will include a community garden, new fitness stations throughout the grounds, and outdoor group activities.

All in all, more than 7,200 volunteers will unite in Timberland-hosted Earth Day events – generating over 50,000 hours of service. At Timberland’s headquarters in Stratham NH, we will participate in eight community greening projects in the Seacoast area tomorrow, April 21.

If you’re busy on April 22nd and feel you can’t be of service on that day, lighten up a little and be flexible. No one said your commitment to better the planet needs to be focused on just one day a year. Do what you can, when you can … the important part is doing something rather than nothing.

I Heart Enlightened Consumers

How heartening!  A recent survey shows consumer interest in green products and expectations for businesses to protect the environment is on the rise!

Yep, you read right. According to a Green is Universal online survey of 1,647 U.S. adults, more than two-thirds (68%) of those surveyed say it’s worth paying more for a green product or service that is from a brand they trustGreen Is Universal is NBC/Universal’s initiative to raise environmental awareness and create positive change.

The fact that these types of “Green Consumer” surveys are popping up more and more frequently underscores our belief that doing good isn’t purely altruistic but holds real business and shareholder value – and that’s only going to increase if the direction in which these survey results are trending are a true indication.

The survey shot onto my radar yesterday during the L’Oreal Sustainable Intelligence Day in New York City (yes, I was sneaking a peek at my Blackberry). L’Oreal, by the way, is the real deal when it comes to walking the sustainability talk; while I was invited to give a presentation on the challenges and rewards of building a brand committed to sustainability, I’m fairly certain that I left the symposium with considerably more insight than I provided.

Just as I read the email which highlighted Green Is Universal’s study, one of the other speakers was referring to a 2008 study conducted by Deloitte for the Grocery Manufacturers Association. She quoted one of the findings of the study that sounded similar yet different to what I had just read on my Blackberry: “A significant minority of committed and proactive green shoppers are willing to pay more for green products, however the larger potential population of shoppers that lean towards green want price and performance parity for sustainable products because it is not their dominant purchase driver.”

Deloitte conducted a direct study of more than 6,000 people while they were shopping at 11 major retailers. 54% of the shoppers interviewed considered sustainability to be one of their decision making factors in purchasing products, and 95% of the shoppers said they “would buy green.” However, a mere 22% actually did buy a green product during their shopping experience.

Very interesting.  95% intent but only 22% action?

Both studies showcased findings which support the notion that consumers have a desire to purchase green products and that they even possess some degree of willingness to pay more for green.  But what the GMA study showed was there is still a significant amount of consumers who actually aren’t willing to throw down a few more green singles for the sake of being green when they get to the cash register.

So where does that leave us? Well, it’s research — we could slice and dice it a million ways and derive multiple conclusions that take us in as many directions. But let’s not get caught up in that today. Today, let’s celebrate the fact that consumers are enlightened and responsible, that they want environmentally-thoughtful products and are willing to pay for them (and that some are even willing to pay more for them!).

And then after today, there’s tomorrow. Tomorrow, companies like L’Oreal, NBC Universal and Timberland need to soldier on so as to capitalize on the opportunity these consumers are giving us.  Our messaging around our products and practices needs to be truthful and crystal clear and difference making – on many levels. Our product design and development needs to lead, inspire and drive innovations that support our commitment to sustainability.  And companies like L’Oreal, NBC Universal and Timberland need to take this news from Green Is Universal to heart and encourage other for-profit companies to do the same.

Even Boots Love a Great View

This love letter showed up in our email inbox just in time … nothing like photo therapy to get you through a chilly, rainy New England day:

G’day,

On a recent tramp out to Cape Kidnappers in Hawkes Bay New Zealand I snapped these shots of my boots enjoying the view, I love my Timberlands, they have been all over the world with me in the last 3 years and are still water proof and have plenty of tread, they have been inspected by plenty of airport customs officers and have always passed, as they are very easy to keep clean, even after a day like this day of 15 miles of beach and paddock and Gannet colonies.

Happy Timberland customer reporting in.

Cheers,
Marc

Have your Timberlands seen any incredible (good or bad) views?  Share them with us.

How We Did – Timberland’s Emissions Reduction Story

In a sea of increasing claims of, “look how green my company is,” I’m proud to work at an organization that is credibly doing something to reduce our contributions to climate change. Our long-standing commitment to reducing our carbon footprint makes sense; our outdoor products are designed to be used in the very areas that we seek to protect and steward.

So how are we doing? Timberland recently achieved an absolute emissions reduction of 38% (for owned and operated facilities and employee air travel) over a 2006 baseline. We focus on absolute reductions because we are measuring the reduction in overall pollution caused by our business.  We achieved this industry-leading result by reducing our energy demand, investing in energy efficiency, and purchasing renewable energy. Overall, these strategies reduce emissions and save costs, making our climate change program a win-win for the environment and our bottom line.

For example, a variety of renovations and improvements made last year at our Stratham, NH (US) headquarters – including the installation of a white roof, more efficient lighting and high-efficiency HVAC systems – resulted in a reduction in energy demand and costs by more than 8%.  In many other Timberland facilities around the world, including our distribution centers in Ontario, CA, Danville, KY and Enschede, Holland, we’re able to generate or purchase renewable energy (directly or through credits) to help us greatly reduce our carbon footprint.  And on the retail side, all new Timberland stores are designed and constructed according to the USGBC’s LEED Retail standard, using an average of 30% less energy than our older store models.

These successes don’t come without challenges. For example, we’re comparing our current reductions to a 2006 baseline which was pretty lean to begin with (meaning we had made major reductions in our energy consumption prior to that time). Also, as we look to increase our use of clean energy, we know that infrastructure and incentives vary location to location, and we may not find the same options for generating or purchasing renewable energy at all of our locations worldwide.

We also are faced with the challenge that our business may grow in the coming years. While this is a good problem to have, it has significant implications for further reductions in our carbon footprint, such as new store openings around the world (which require more energy to operate) and an increase in employee air travel (which causes the most significant emissions within our current scope).

Despite these challenges, we’re committed to reducing the carbon footprint of our owned and operated facilities (and employee air travel) by 50% by the end of 2015. And we’re working to engage our factory partners, materials suppliers, and consumers to reduce their contributions to climate change as well. By diligently accounting for our own carbon emissions and sharing our learnings with others, we’re walking the talk as much as we can. If a company like Timberland can reduce its carbon footprint, others can too.

Please visit www.timberland.com/ClimateStrategy2011 to learn more about our accomplishments, challenges, and work within the supply chain, and http://community.timberland.com to engage with others on these issues.

Sustainabilty Demands Leadership, Not Posturing

Too bad that the communications department at PPR, the parent company of Puma and Gucci, doesn’t seem to be held to the same standards of original design and creativity that the product design departments are.  Their recent announcement about a new sustainability agenda focused on the social and environmental impacts of PPR’s business reads a lot like an off-the-rack knock-off of existing thinking, re-packaged as important business leadership. Tant pis; the world needs better.

That PPR aspires to be an active builder of Moral Capitalism is heartening. Way too few CEOs in this industry are even remotely serious about real sustainability.  In a world where government leadership on climate change is hot air rhetoric, period, private sector leaders have a unique opportunity to link solid, for-profit thinking/doing with sustainable business practices, creating real profit and social impact.

So, to les Pinaults, bienvenue, welcome — glad you are determined to be involved in the conversation.  But if you want to lead—the way a Gucci design leads—we need much more from you.

First, check the rhetoric about “groundbreaking” and “pioneering” and “world’s first” in the press materials.  For more than a decade, a group of competitors have been doing serious work to build sustainability into the fashion industry.  You are more than welcome to join the Outdoor Industry Association’s Eco-Working Group, which has been laboring the past several years to create a standard measurement system for the environmental impact of products.  Or, do connect to the Apparel Coalition, which counts as founding members the likes of Nordstrom and Gap and Adidas and Patagonia, who are trying to build consistent standards into how the apparel industry approaches sustainability.  Sustainability in the fashion industry requires collaboration, period.  If Walmart, with all their scale and power, believes that the best path to industrial reform requires other brands to collaborate rather than “go it alone,” then respectfully — connect to the existing efforts underway.  Given your creativity, your brand building power, your star power — consider building on the existing coalition of the truly committed.

Second, if you are serious about sustainability, consider some understanding of existing best practices.  Given the hurdles of consumer confusion, and government inaction, there is no time for anyone to reinvent wheels that are already rolling in the pursuit of sustainability. So it is disappointing to see you embrace buying carbon offsets as a best practice, rather than dedicating your creative energy to pursuing real, concrete emissions reductions in your operations and value chain.   Four years ago our company publically set a measureable, concrete goal—to become carbon neutral by the end of 2010.  To achieve carbon neutrality, we committed to cutting our emissions associated with our facilities and employee air travel by 50%.  And with hard work we did exactly what you can do—we reduced our emissions—by 38%.  We did not meet our goal of 50%, but we did fundamentally reorient our business practice.  We began to transform ourselves into a sustainable business.  And so when we wrote the check offsetting the balance of the emissions we are accountable for, we wrote the check with the determination that with more innovation, more hard work, more commitment, the “check writing” part of our sustainability agenda can be for a very short time period.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t rework your value chain to eliminate emissions—if we can, you surely can.

No one in the fashion space has more vision and daring than you.  No one competes harder than you.  You lead in our industry—and so more is expected of you, once you leap onto the short list of fashion brands that know we can create profit for shareholders in a sustainable fashion.  Lights are down, influential eyes are all set in their chairs, the catwalk is empty, the curtain is opening….and because this is the PPR sustainability show, there are big expectations.  Lights, camera…. let’s see PPR’s leadership in action.

Celebrate Earth Month With More Trees!

This is a very exciting week for tree planting at Timberland: in honor of Earth Month, we’re increasing the tree ratio in our Virtual Forest Facebook Application to 1 to 1. Forget about the complicated two-real-trees-for-every-25-virtual-trees shenanigans… we’re making it simple. From now on, when you plant one virtual tree, Timberland will plant one real tree in Haiti (up to one million). Now that’s something to celebrate!

This change to the app will be retroactive, bumping up the number of additional real trees we’ll be planting in Haiti to over 100,000 thanks to all of the virtual planting that’s been done so far! Planting a tree in the app is easy if you have a Facebook account. If you haven’t already, we invite you to join the Timberland Earthkeepers Virtual Forest and invite your Facebook friends to join, too: http://apps.facebook.com/timberlandtreeapp/

In partnership with Trees for the Future, the trees we’re planting will provide food, fuel and shelter for the people of Haiti. For example, one of the trees we’re planting, the benzoliv (moringa) tree, has leaves packed with seven times more vitamin C than oranges, four times more calcium than milk, and three times more potassium than bananas. That’s a real “miracle tree” for combating malnourishment — and together we can plant more of them in Haiti. So let’s get planting, invite our friends to help and spread the word!

Learn more about Timberland’s tree planting efforts in Haiti