Reducing Emissions – Not Boycotting Fuel
Editor’s note: The following was written in response to public confusion over the last few days about Timberland and an alleged boycott of fuel derived from oil sands.
When you fuel up your car, do you have any idea where – actually, physically, where — the fuel comes from? We don’t either. As our company doesn’t ship our products ourselves — we hire carrier companies to do it – we don’t have direct visibility to or authority over the choices our carriers make about the fuel they use to keep their trucks moving.
We do measure the greenhouse gas emissions associated with burning fuel to ship Timberland products. And like most people, we pay attention to our fuel consumption for cost and climate reasons. We have a dedicated team that spends a lot of time and effort calculating the most efficient transportation routes from Point A to Point B in order to reduce shipping time and save fuel, which helps us cut costs and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Other ways in which we’re working to reduce our transportation emissions include making modal shifts (e.g. moving products by barge instead of truck), and participating in a group called Clean Cargo that convenes brands and the carrier industry to measure and identify ways to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with shipping consumer products. We also have one-on-one conversations with our carriers and potential carriers during our contracting process to understand what steps they’re taking to reduce their carbon footprint. This information informs our decision about whether to hire or keep carriers.
We also partner with organizations that can help us better understand environmental issues and how we might contribute to positive, sustainable solutions. For more than a year now, Forest Ethics has been teaching us more about the carbon intensity associated not with shipping, but with the feedstock that makes the fuel that goes into our carriers’ trucks. What we’ve learned is that some fuels require more energy to extract and refine than others. This information has helped us to realize that we need to look at the emissions associated with shipping our product the same way we look at the emissions associated with producing our product – from the original source (such as the well, in the case of fuel or the cow, in the case of leather) right through to the finished product.
Easier said then done, since we don’t own any of the trucks that ship our products or employ the people that fuel them up. We’re a very small fish in the very large ocean of brands that ship products all over the world – but what we can do is facilitate conversations with our partners that lead to holistic solutions that improve social and environmental impact. Currently, we ask our carriers to tell us what they’re doing to measure and reduce their greenhouse gas footprint from well head through to fleet efficiency and route optimization. We do not boycott fuels because as mentioned above, we don’t have enough visibility into the fuel sources our carriers use to do so intelligently … and also because we don’t believe boycotts are the best path toward collaborative problem solving or positive sustainable outcomes. We do stand committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and to continuing to push the boundaries on what is considered part of our carbon footprint through measurement, productive conversation, and holistic action – not boycotts.
Senior Manager of Environmental Stewardship, Timberland