Posts Tagged ‘carbon emissions’

Morality v. Technology? Don’t Make Me Ditch My iPhone …

Why is it that the world’s coolest brand sees a choice between delivering new culture changing products and delivering them … sustainably? How does Apple get away with such a limited imagination in this day and age?

CEOs of publicly-traded companies in the fashion industry don’t get the “pass” that comes to the super cool Apple leaders and their uber cool company.  Meaning, my shareholders and my consumers insist that we create profit, quarter by quarter, and that we do it … in a sustainable fashion, both in terms of environmental practice, and in terms of transparency and safe working conditions in the supply chain.  Why does a boot maker get held to a higher standard than an iPad maker?

Is it because consumers of iPads and iPhones and iMacs don’t care about how their products are made, about how much energy was used, what chemicals were involved, what impact on the environment the manufacturing process wreaks, or whether the rapidly churned products will end up being recycled or in a landfill at the end of their usable life?  I doubt it.  The elite technology adopters who “wear” their Apple products like a badge of hipster coolness seem to me like the very center of the “moral capitalism” consumer universe—hanging at Davos, orating at TED, elbow rubbing at SXSW.  As a wannabe cool guy, I sit here with my headphones on, listening to my iPod and working on my iPad, wanting to feel as cutting-edge as the technology at my command … but instead, I feel a little sick.  Because a brand that’s seen as a world leader is, in this case, failing to lead.

Apple refuses to set targets for reducing its carbon emissions.  Despite Chinese factory workers falling seriously ill after being exposed to a toxic chemical while manufacturing Apple products, the company remains tight-lipped about its supply chain – presumably prescribing to the belief that that supply chain secrecy is key to competitiveness.  It’s an argument that sounds vaguely familiar: in the last decade, some in the fashion industry pleaded the same argument with activists.  The outcome?  These days everyone knows where Nike and Timberland and adidas manufacture —names, addresses—and the “competitive secret” argument is debunked.  Period. Don’t tell me cool and sustainable aren’t compatible—there are too many examples in the marketplace, earning plaudits from consumers and activists for anyone to believe otherwise.

With success and leadership comes a heightened expectation of responsibility – and Apple is failing that test.  And the worst part?  The company’s “rebel without a corporate responsibility cause” attitude doesn’t seem to hurt it one bit with consumers or investors.

Many of us – myself included – are perpetuating a mind-blowing double standard, proudly browsing the organic produce section and flaunting our recycled grocery totes … but wave the “it” technology product of the month in front of us, and we forget all about business’s need to be transparent and accountable and responsible.

Why should consumers like me have to choose between transformational technology and moral consumption? To iPad, or not to iPad—why is that the question?  Why shouldn’t Apple’s leadership instead have to raise its game, and make their cool products and their cool company more socially accountable? If Apple would replicate the speed-to-market rigor and innovation of their product development in their corporate responsibility agenda, consumers like me could have our cool and self respect.

Apple should keep exceeding my expectations for products, but not at the expense of my expectations for social and environmental responsibility.  They can and must show leadership in sustainability, not just in technology.  That would be Thinking Differently.

News Flash: Climate Legislation Lacks Leadership

Page 3 of this morning’s Wall Street Journal announces, “Senate Halts Effort to Cap CO2 Emissions.“  I am outraged … but not surprised.  Not in the least.

I was in Washington yesterday, on business unrelated to climate legislation — I was invited to a Congressional briefing on the role of private enterprise in rebuilding a devastated Haiti.  That’s a topic for another blog post … but it almost doesn’t matter why I was there, since the experience is so often the same regardless of the focus.  Too many so-called “leaders” posturing and posing and blowing hot air in form of prepared, approved, predictable remarks.  Too many politicians that have been entrusted to lead, to put the best interests of their states and their constituents first, instead doing predictably nothing to fulfill their duties or address any interest that isn’t their own, or that of their party.  Senate Democratic leadership shelved their cap-and-trade effort?  The most astonishing part about that news to me is that the effort ever made it this far.

The article could have stopped there, one paragraph in, but goes on to offer half a page of familiar excuses from climate legislation opponents for why cap and trade is to be feared and avoided like a deal with the devil.  I can see them — did see them, yesterday, our principled “leaders” — wringing their hands and shaking their heads and trying to work up expressions of earnest concern: “Cap and trade would kill jobs!  Cripple our industries! Put us at a disadvantage to Chinese rivals! Force higher costs for consumers!” From Congress and the President — instead of legislation, instead of engaged democracy, we get the EPA setting guidelines in a backroom somewhere.  This is not the way to make America energy independent, or to ensure that American business is sustainable–financially and environmentally.

Washington can – and will – continue on the path of pretense, working hard to appear to be working hard on the crisis facing our natural environment, while actually doing nothing — except making cheap headlines, by demonizing “fat cat bankers” or “scurrilous CEOs,” which earns a cheap laugh from the press, and maybe even earns votes from the manipulated masses. Is this what the greatest democracy in the history of humankind is reduced to — toxic rhetoric from the left and the right?

In the meantime, thank goodness for the creative power of the private sector.  The solar industry will continue to expand (especially in China, where that government has decided that clean energy is a priority).  And despite the absence of a clear policy, or even any real policy on sustainability, private enterprise, maligned by this administration regularly, will continue to reduce their emissions and lower their energy costs. It is good business, common sense, and competitive advantage to lower your environmental impact.  No wonder our “leaders” in Washington don’t get it.

Timberland has reduced our carbon emissions by almost 40% against our 2006 baseline–lowering costs, making our business more profitable and more sustainable. We are a mid-size business competing in the global economy, and we are doing what our “leaders” say can’t be done — we are being competitive, and we are building sustainability into our business model.

Would a clear government policy on carbon help — the way a minimum wage or CAFE standards help industry? You bet.  But as the Wall Street Journal article demonstrates clearly — if you’re waiting for leadership from the Beltway Denizens on climate change, settle in.  Rhetoric aplenty … leadership, not a whit.

Someone let me know when there’s actual news breaking about principled leadership regarding climate change from this administration … in the meantime, I’ve got a responsible business to run.

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland

Mr. Swartz Goes to Washington

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself in an unusual place for a Thursday afternoon–at the White House, in a suit.  Not sure I shouldn’t have dressed in Timberland jeans and boots; would have been a whole lot more comfortable.  The setting was a small group of CEOs–principally, utility and power company execs, big hitters all of them, a total of 7 “business leaders” meeting with heavyweights in the Administration, at their request, to discuss ways to advance climate and clean energy legislation.  No, not joking–power company execs and the Administration, talking cap and trade.  Despite the fact I was wearing a suit, you could tell the difference between the big boys and the bootmakers; their DC lobbying staffs seemed as big as our sales force is–nationally.  But a certain amount of “gee whiz, what are we doing in the room with these big guys” aside, I was proud to be at the table.  For 20 years, we’ve been working at building a business model that says we can earn real profit for shareholders, while living a passion for preserving the place where we and our consumers love to recreate.  Sustainability is the current language–we called it, “running a responsible business that serves the outdoors.”  Call it what you will–it was good to be at the table.  While the numerous and serious utilities represented around the table might have money to lose in this environmental battle, what we have at stake is our entire livelihood.

It was an impressive group and an important opportunity … and served as an interesting case study of the chaos of democracy.  We spent too much time on discussion about The Bill before the House, and how to get it passed, and then how to get it through the Senate.  A fascinating civics lesson, a wild opportunity to see how government really works–I listened to one power exec explain that while they were sure glad to be working to get this bill passed, they wanted to make dead sure the Administration knew that what they wanted in return was the government’s support for new nuclear plants.  Hmn.  Horse trading in a fancy room at the White House.  For what it is worth, while they talked “deal,” and I listened intently, I also spent some time staring at the fancy chandelier.  Full of incandescent light bulbs.  At the White House.  Do we need nuclear plants? Maybe, maybe not–I’m a bootmaker, not a policy maker–but I know with certainty, if the White House would change the light bulbs, and install low flush urinals in the men’s rooms (I visited–antique plumbing, and paper towels to dry your hand!), they would model a more real world kind of leadership.  The very best solution to energy policy is…use less.  Conserve more.  Change the darned light bulbs in the chandelier.  If everyone would do what they can do, then–maybe less horse-trading legislative support for a complicated law that may or may not work, in return for nuclear plants that may or may not be good for the world…

I made no friends with the powerful power folks when I got to speak for a moment; when the political leaders asked what we thought of the legislation, I told the truth–that the law got watered down big time by horse trading, to a 17% reduction in carbon emissions, and now involves giving away a ton of “get out of jail free cards” to the worst polluters.  I pointed out the inconvenient truth–that over the last 2 years, compelled not by policy but by common sense, led not by theory but by a desire to run a more profitable and sustainable business, Timberland has cut our carbon emissions by 27%.  Hmn.  They keep talking, and we keep cutting, saving money, building more sustainable products.  Our approach wasn’t mandated or designed by committee, it was the result of a sound business model coupled with passion for the outdoors and desire to preserve our business.  It’s not nuclear power plant science, it’s just good bootmaking business.

In the end, I went home optimistic sort of, and resolute for sure.  The good news is, the imperfect process of democracy is the greatest form of vibrant political discourse known.  And it works.  We are going to get climate change legislation, which is imperfect as heck but hey–we know that perfect is the enemy of the good, and we also know, you have to be in the game if you want to compete.  So–this law is better than nothing.  And the law is really just a clarion call to say–time to get to work.  We have to make backroom legislative deal-making Washington-born policy consumer relevant.


Consumers /citizens want to do the right thing.  They count on their elected representatives to make good policy, and they expect brands and businesses to play fair and do right.  And then they can live the lives we all want.  And when it comes to climate change, that is what they want–simple and clear ways to buy the goods and services they desire, in a fashion that won’t destroy their planet.  Legislation putting the real price of carbon into the economy is a step in that direction.  But only a step.  Now, brands have to get into the game–to help consumers make the easy and good choices they want and expect.

Bootmaker goes to Washington, learns a lot, leaves with the optimistic sense that the government is trying to do its bit, leaves also with a renewed and reinforced understanding that government is necessary, but not sufficient.

Calling all CEOs.  You can reduce your costs, increase your profits, delight your consumers and your shareholders.  And, help preserve our environment.

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland

Timberland’s Quarterly Corporate Responsibility Results Released

Timberland’s Q1 2009 corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance report is now available online at  Results are organized according to our 4 CSR pillars (energy, product, workplace and service) and choice highlights include:

  • We achieved continued greenhouse gas emissions reductions due to less air travel and a conversion of our Danville distribution center to renewable electricity.
  • We continue to report supply chain emissions in our effort to address the largest part of our carbon footprint. We’re refining our data collection from factories and will report emissions related to Timberland-only products later in 2009. Establishing a baseline for Timberland-related emissions will allow us to work more effectively with our partner factories on carbon management.
  • The growth in our Earthkeepers product line has resulted in our apparel team and licensees greatly exceeding our organic cotton procurement target. This reduces our dependence on conventional cotton, which is grown with harmful pesticides and herbicides.
  • We are now reporting our consumption of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which is a more holistic measure of hazardous chemical consumption than our previous water-based adhesive metric. Tracking this metric will allow us to better manage the chemicals in our footwear supply chain.

To see our detailed disclosure, click on the reports at  Here, you’ll find quarterly comparisons to annual data and forward-looking targets, description of our metrics and data collection processes, and analysis of this quarter’s results.  For more information, contact

Green Energy in Coal Country

95% of the power produced in the state of Kentucky comes from coal – one of the most widely-used fuels for electrical generation, and one of the largest fixed-source producers of CO2.  It’s no small feat, then, that deep in the heart of coal country Kentucky Utilities Company (KU) is working hard to make their energy green.

By enrolling in KU’s Green Energy program, customers can offset the carbon impact of their electricity use, one “block” at a time.  Every $5 purchase of Green Energy ensures that 300 kWh of renewable energy is delivered onto the Kentucky transmission grid (currently sourced from the Mother Ann Lee hydroelectric plant, with more renewable energy sources under consideration) – supporting the development of renewable energy in the region, and helping to improve the environment for all of us.

Through KU’s Green Energy program, Timberland recently began offsetting 100% of the carbon emissions from our Danville, KY distribution center – to the tune of roughly 1,894 tons of CO2 emissions each year.  We’re proud to be the first Green Business to join KU’s program at the 100% level.

KU customers can calculate their carbon footprint and enroll in the Green Energy program on the company’s website.  Not a Kentucky resident?  Call your local utility company and inquire about renewable energy options – many now offer green energy programs similar to KU’s.

Green Stuff We Love for Mother’s Day

Earthkeepers love their moms and Mother Earth … here are a few gift ideas sure to please them both:

With the Sabertec Blade attached to her car’s tailpipe, Mom can cut 12 percent of the vehicle’s carbon emissions – and get six more miles per gallon.


While dish detergent wouldn’t normally top our gift list, Method‘s Smarty Dish tablets smell good (pink grapefruit) and are good for the environment (containing no phosphates or bleach).




Reclaimed glass from old car windshields come back to life in the form of this beautiful multi-purpose bowl from Uncommon Goods (beer and wine glasses, too). 


Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest one of our own 100% organic cotton t-shirts, printed with water-based inks. 




 Have another green gift idea you love?  Share it with us.