Archive for November, 2012

In His Boots

Nigel Fisher is a humanitarian and international development expert who has lead relief and recovery efforts with UNICEF for over 20 years in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.  He’s done most of his work in a pair of Timberland Fastpacker Boots, circa 1997-98.

Mr. Fisher’s boots have witnessed some truly amazing events, including wading through floods and knee-high mud in 2008 post-cyclone Haiti, through the 2004 post-tsunami rubble of Aceh, Indonesia and the 2010 post-earthquake devastation of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  The boots were with Nigel as he visited a UNICEF-supported shelter for girls in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and again while he trekked across central Afghanistan in 2002 to visit the first schools for girls in remote communities and newly-opened health centres accessible to women for the first time.

These boots have personally encountered tens of thousands of children. If you bear in mind the negotiations undertaken, plans made, operations overseen, assistance delivered, schools built, while they were worn, and the fact that I often negotiated on behalf of UNICEF and many organizations for nationwide emergency or vaccination programs while wearing them, then they have influenced millions of children’s lives.

- Nigel Fisher

Last week, I was honored to be on hand for the induction of Nigel’s boots at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, where they will become part of a permanent collection.  I was also delighted to present Nigel with a brand new pair of Timberland hikers, so that he can continue on his humanitarian journey. Nigel’s wife was on-hand to accept as he joined us via satellite from Haiti, where he continues his work in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

You can learn more about Nigel’s inspiring work and the Bata Shoe Museum exhibition in his honor here, and in the UNICEF Canada video below.

Clean Drinking Water in Vietnam

According to reports from the World Health Organization and UNICEF, every year 3.6 million people die of water-related diseases.  Access to clean drinking water is one of the basic needs we work to ensure all workers in our supply chain have.

During an assessment of factories in and around Hanoi, Vietnam, our Supplier Sustainability Team discovered that clean drinking water was the #1 concern among workers at the Stella Group’s Golden Star factories in Hai Phong City, Vietnam (a port city located about 60 miles east of Hanoi).  Although the water within the factory itself was clean, we learned that the community where many of the Golden Star workers live is far away, and far more rural: Residents there have to rely on groundwater and rainwater for drinking and domestic use, with little (if any) filtration.

When Timberland learns that access to clean drinking water is an issue in workers’ communities, we call on our partnership with Planet Water Foundation to help meet the need. Planet Water Foundation is a U.S.-based, nonprofit organization that strives to bring clean water to the world’s most disadvantaged communities through the installation of water filtration systems and education on how to use them.

In Vietnam, Timberland’s Supplier Sustainability Team worked with Planet Water Foundation, the factory and the local community to determine the best location for two clean drinking water towers.  The final selections were on the grounds of two kindergartens, where the highest number of community members would have access.  The towers were constructed in July 2012.

One advantage of the Planet Water filtration system is that the system doesn’t require any consumables. The filters only require nominal daily maintenance checks by school staff, and can last seven to ten years. When needed, the filters can be replaced for a modest cost. In addition, Planet Water guarantees each installation and returns to the project site every three months for five years after the installation to ensure that the system is operating correctly.

While the primary benefit of the water towers is better health through clean drinking water, there’s a business case for brands and factories to provide a sustainable living environment for workers — as well as a humanitarian one. After all, when employees miss work because they’re ill—or have to stay home to care for sick family members—productivity suffers.

Golden Star Factory manager Doan Anh Tuan sums it up by saying, “This project has affected our everyday lives—not just at the factory but into our communities and schools. We’ll be feeling its impact for generations.”