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.

Betsy Blaisdell
Senior Manager of Environmental Stewardship, Timberland

  • Bhutch1

    Perhaps you should check the newspapers in Calgary and Edmonton on this recent issue…It sure says that you have joined a boycott of the Alberta produced Oil Sands….Ah!!!… free cheap publicityis not hard to come by…Oh Yes I will now be boycotting your product and all that sell it……Bill… In Calgary

  • R Kerr

    I would suggest you listen less to Forest Ethics who helped create this mess for you.

    80% of carbon emissions come from the end user (Jacobs, TIAX).

  • Vincent

    First of all, your tag of “tar sands” is, at best, disingenuous if not insulting. There is no tar in the Athabasca region. None.

    Secondly, I think that your motives are clear enough based on the polemical literature available on the forest ethics website, including how to “stop the tar sands.”

    Thirdly, you may want to “facilitate a conversation” with someone in your marketing department regarding how you just committed suicide with your workboot target market in Alberta.

  • Fitzgerald

    What a mess. You're trying so hard to appear socially responsible that you can't see the forest for the trees… or maybe you can't see the forest for the “Forest Ethics”

    Your company is actually endorsing the purchase of energy from countries whose interests are contrary to American interests, because you've been sold a bill of goods by an environmental lobby best known for twisting facts and convincing naive company executives to sign on to these types of ill-fated boycott schemes.

    Notwithstanding that Alberta oil isn't actually any “dirtier” than any other oil from a carbon perspective, you're intentionally alienating customers in order to send a PR message that nobody's really interested in. No gain for you, plenty of loss. Boycotting Alberta oil while at the same time aggressively marketing your product in Alberta is foolish and hypocritical. Timberland should be embarrassed.

  • http://itsgettinghotinhere.org/2010/08/27/fortune-500-companies-flex-market-muscle-reject-tar-sands/ Fortune 500 Companies Flex Market Muscle, Reject Tar Sands « It’s Getting Hot In Here

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  • Betsy Blaisdell

    Thanks to the commenters who have taken the time to read Timberland's position and share their own thoughts. To reiterate — because based on the comments here, it does sound like there might be some confusion — Timberland is not participating in a boycott of any kind. What we are doing it working closely with our carrier partners to identify opportunities for them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Fitzgerald

    Thanks for the clarification, Betty.

    Perhaps your firm should reconsider its affiliation with Forest Ethics if they inaccurately portray your company's position on these matters?

  • Tom

    It is amazing how illinformed and hipicritical Timerland is. Alberta produces about 40% of the crude oil consumed in the US yet produces less than 1% of the worlds greenhouse gasses. The US and China account for 40% of the worlds green house gasses as a result of coal fired power plants. Canada produces less than 2% of the worlds greenhouse gasses. Maybe Timerland should shut all of its stores and manufacturing facilities to help reduce environmental damage. I suppose Timberland would rather use oil from Venezuela and the middle east. You know; the countries that hate America. As a past purchaser of Timberland boots from Marks Workwear I will no longer buy these products again. I have also asked Marks to no longer carry Timberland products. I will also urge other Canadians to boycott there products. Tom in Hamilton

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