Posts Tagged ‘corporate responsibility’

Timberland Perspectives: The Truth About Transparency

A Responsibility Revolution Extra Guest Post from Jeffrey Hollender & Bill Breen

During the two years they spent writing The Responsibility Revolution, authors Jeffrey Hollender and Bill Breen conducted an intensive series of interviews at key companies on the leading edge of the corporate responsibility movement. In this bonus excerpt from Bill’s conversations with Timberland CEO Jeffrey Swartz and Timberland CSR Strategy Manager Beth Holzman, they share some of the additional insights and perspectives these encounters provided:

No company can claim to be authentically responsible if it doesn’t dare to get a little naked. Radical transparency—revealing your good, bad, and ugly impacts on society and the environment—is the first step toward turning critics into collaborators and collectively inventing aggressive ways to operate sustainably. As we show in The Responsibility Revolution, few publicly traded enterprises have done as much as Timberland to innovate around transparency.

Along with Nike and Gap, Timberland was among the first big brands to reveal the locations of its suppliers’ factories and open them up to outside scrutiny. More recently, Timberland developed its Green Index tag, modeled on a nutrition label, which rates many of the company’s hiking boots and shoes on their environmental impact. There’s also the quarterly phone dialogs with CEO Jeffrey Swartz, in which callers query him about hot-button issues like eco-labeling and sustainable sourcing, and many more strategies for building a glass house.

When Bill Breen and I reviewed his interviews with Swartz, Beth Holzman, and other corporate-responsibility execs, we found that they’d dug into five essential truths about transparency. Each comes through hard-won experience.

Transparency is often irritating, difficult, and scary.

Swartz: Our efforts to be more transparent around our good and bad impacts on society and the environment started with the disingenuous discourse between activists and brands about where our factories are located. It was kind of a silly argument. It’s not hard to figure out where 300 million shoes are manufactured in China. Ten minutes with a phone book would give you the addresses. I didn’t want to have that conversation. And the best way to not have the conversation was to simply reveal the damn locations.

Read the rest of this entry »

Board Dinner Meets Taco Night; Hungry Kids Benefit

Part of the regular governance of a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange is … board meetings.

Part of the regular cycle of board meetings is … board dinners, usually the night before.

Last night, Timberland’s board met for dinner at Andy Husbands’ restaurant — Tremont 647 in Boston.

$2 tacos are a Tuesday night phenomenon in the South End at Andy’s place — but because of the Hell’s Kitchen show, Tuesday tacos moved to Wednesday night.  Even though I can’t eat it (the kosher kid brings his own delicacies…), I figured the Board would enjoy some local cool cuisine.  So, they started with tacos.

Quickly enough, we ended up with the regular menu.  The Board is cool, but the cuisine was … hot … and so, back to the menu.

Andy came in to say hello.  As a TV star part of Gordon Ramsay‘s Hell’s Kitchen, Andy is a pretty hip celeb these days.

But not for the cuisine, not for the celebrity shoulder rubbing — not for those reasons did I take the Board to Tremont 647.

No, when Timberland’s shareholders pay for the Board’s dinner, they insist that we not just feed our desire for a good mea l– they insist that we use their funds to high purpose, the purpose of commerce and justice. So, when we schedule a business dinner, we host them in a restaurant affiliated with Share Our Strength (SOS) – a national nonprofit organization focused on ending childhood hunger in America.

Share Our Strength restaurants support the effort by donating a portion of their profits to SOS, or participating in one of the organization’s fund-and awareness-raising events … Andy and his team at Tremont 647 do both.  Andy has been actively engaged with SOS for years, and his restaurant has hosted SOS’s Boston Operation Frontline program for more than a decade — providing space and support for more than 5,000 people to receive nutrition education, food budgeting strategies and cooking skills.  In the real world, that kind of teaching is infinitely more valuable than anything Gordon Ramsay could dish out.  Hell’s Kitchen is a clever TV concept, but a high-brow restaurant delighting its clientele and serving to end childhood hunger — this is, Heaven trumps Hell.  Period.

The intersection of commerce and justice lives at Tremont 647.  With equal attention and passion, Andy serves Tibetan Momo Dumplings and serves the needs of children at risk for hunger … and from the comfort of our table, we fill our heads with business talk while helping to fill the bellies of kids who don’t have enough food.  The work of changing the world doesn’t always feel like work; in the right company, in the right atmosphere, it can be downright delicious.

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland