The Evolution of Timberland Product Labeling

A Nutritional Label—for Shoes

Timberland Nutrition Labwel

More and more, today’s consumers want to know what kind of environmental footprint is being left by the products they buy. In 2006, Timberland began putting that information on 30 million footwear boxes: by placing a “nutritional label” on every box to educate consumers about the product. Where it was manufactured. How it was produced. And its effect on the environment. To create the label, three critical areas are highlighted. Information about the manufacturing plant. The impact of manufacturing on the climate. And the impact on the community, including such factors as the number of hours of volunteer service performed by Timberland employees to “Make it better” in the community. We’re also putting a message inside the box asking consumers to consider what kind of footprint they themselves are leaving and encouraging them to become proactive in the effort to protect our planet. Under this initiative, footwear boxes are also crafted from 100% post-consumer recycled waste fiber, using no chemical glues. Only soy-based inks are used to print the labels, which are the first of their kind in the industry.

The First Step

So far, public reaction has been positive. But, as the Chinese proverb states, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Well-informed CSR pundit Joel Makower agreed in his blog. Evaluating Timberland’s nutritional label, he says, “It’s a step in the right direction” and “a laudable first effort,” but adds that it left him “hungry for more.” We couldn’t agree more. In fact, we see our new nutritional label as just the first step. Of a conversation. A promise of our commitment to transparency and sustainability. And a challenge to our entire supply chain and to other companies to “Make it better” for the world we share.

Introducing the Next Step: The Green Index™ Rating

Timberland Green Index CardThe next step in this initiative is the Green Index™ rating, which will go beyond printing corporate CSR information on a nutritional label on the shoebox to provide product-specific environmental impact information on the actual shoe. Using a scale of 0 (best) to 10 (worst), the Green Index™ rating rates the shoe on three key environmental factors: climate impact, chemical use and resource consumption. By putting this information—good and bad—at your fingertips, you’ll know exactly what you’re putting on your feet. The Green Index™ rating is carried on a select line of our Greenscape shoes as well as several of our Outdoor Performance shoes. Our goal is to have it on all of our shoes by 2010.

What to Expect Going Forward

Unveiled in January 2007 at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Utah, the Green Index™ rating helped Timberland win the Backpacker Editor’s Choice Green Award for innovation in green product development. And industry-wide interest seems to be developing for creating a common “eco label” for products.

We’re excited about this development and look forward to seeing where this journey leads.

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