Posts Tagged ‘Making Our Difference: TBL CSR’

The Power of Service Inspires Taiwan

2012 marks the 20th anniversary of Timberland’s Path of Service™ program, which gives employees 40 hours of paid time off to serve in their communities. This milestone provides an opportunity to recognize the importance of service to our corporate culture, honor our heritage, and look for ways to deepen our commitment to service. One way we are doing that is by expanding that commitment beyond our employee base—encouraging consumers to join us in serving in their communities.

Our Timberland team in Taiwan is leading the way, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Path of Service™ program by setting a goal to serve 10,000 hours in 2012. Consumers who serve with us will be thanked for their efforts: those who serve 24 hours throughout the year at Timberland events will receive a free Timberland T-shirt, while those who serve 40 hours will receive a free pair of Earthkeepers boots!

The first of five major service events planned occurred in March, when a team gathered to help clean and protect Taiwan’s eroding seashore. Timberland employee and consumer volunteers built a fence to help slow the loss of sand, and categorized and recorded waste collected. Volunteers were amazed to discover that some of the waste came from Korea, Japan and even the Philippines.

The next consumer-oriented service event took place in May, when a Taiwan service team ventured into the mountains to help beautify a national park and eradicate non-indigenous plants and marine life that are creating an ecological imbalance in local ponds.

Timberland Taiwan’s 10,000 service-hour goal is well on its way to being met, with some 3,000 service hours accrued in early 2012.  We hope to take Taiwan’s model and expand it to a more global scale, as we aim to share Timberland’s passion for service, while making it fun and easy for consumers all over the world to engage with our brand.

To learn more about our commitment to community service and the ways in which we’re working to make a difference around the world, visit our Responsibility site.

Big Steps to Renewable Energy in Europe

As an outdoor brand, Timberland knows that climate change is a real threat. We aim to be part of the solution by reducing our energy demand, investing in renewable energy and working with our partners to do the same.

Where possible, we’re driving down energy demand across all our facilities. In Europe, we have the opportunity to purchase clean energy for some of our offices, showrooms and retail store – but it’s not an easy task, as grid-renewable energy is not available in all locations. For example, we’ve had to work creatively with utility providers and experiment with bulk purchasing to bring success experienced in places like Germany, Austria and Switzerland to countries like the United Kingdom, where Timberland’s European Headquarters (EHQ) is based.

“We wanted to use renewable energy (in the U.K.) for a long time,” explains Alex Crawford, Timberland’s London-based European procurement manager, “but there wasn’t enough supply to meet the demand from businesses.”

Then in 2010, the British government began investing heavily in renewable power, offering tax breaks and relaxing laws to encourage the creation of power from sources other than fossil fuel. “Power companies erected big wind farms out in the ocean off the coast of Britain, so within the last 18 months, the supply has increased dramatically,” Crawford says.

Timberland’s procurement and facilities teams in the U.K. jumped at the opportunity to support the company’s energy goals in their homeland. With the help of National Utility Services, an integrated energy solutions firm, we were able to consolidate energy suppliers, and now source energy from a single supplier for our EHQ location 20 miles west of London, and another supplier for all retail locations in the U.K. This consolidation has offered a financial benefit, as well as an environmental one: we can buy renewable energy in bulk, resulting in cost savings. As of August 1, 2011, nearly all of the energy used by Timberland in the U.K. is derived from renewable sources.

“One of the great things about working for Timberland is that we always work as a team,” says Crawford. “Everybody pulled together to deliver this financially and environmentally beneficial result.”

Because of our focus on sourcing clean energy in Europe and elsewhere, Timberland met its goal of purchasing 15% clean energy out of our total energy usage in 2011. Going forward, we anticipate challenges as we look for opportunities to curb energy demand and emissions while still growing our business and expanding our international presence. Stay tuned to updates on Timberland’s Responsibility site for how we’ll tackle this challenge.

The Evolution of CSR Reporting

Sustainability reporting is increasing at a fast pace here in the United States. Since the Global Reporting Initiative was launched in 1997, the number of reporting organizations in our country has increased tenfold. It’s true that multi-nationals reporting on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues in the U.S. lag behind our global counterparts. However, it’s encouraging to see an increase in reporting uptake – not just because this allows stakeholders to better understand corporate impacts, but also because reporting in its best form should be a tool that aids strategy development, target setting, and business management.

Since the early days when standards were first created to guide corporations’ communication of ESG impacts and issues, the details, mediums, and audiences for sustainability reports have changed. What started out as backward-looking accountability statements primarily covering environmental impacts and corporate philanthropy has evolved into robust corporate evaluations of material impacts – which are now vetted through stakeholder bodies and include a balanced account of progress, challenges, and forward-looking and aspirational targets (in their best form).

Timberland has been experimenting with different mediums for some time. We issued our first CSR report back in 2000 – a short, printed document focused on community service, employee engagement, and overview information about our social and environmental programs. Fast forward to 2007 when we released our 2006 CSR report – our last annual, printed “accountability statement.” In today’s era of increasing information and stakeholder requests, I’m often asked “who’s reading these reports, and what are they accomplishing?”  One could argue that our 19-page report in 2000 was accessible, easy to understand, and inclusive of many stakeholder interests (although light on data by today’s standards). By comparison, our 2006 report (which was 180 pages long and won several awards for best-in-class disclosure) was full of possibly too much information for different audiences to easily access what they had specific interest in.

There’s continued debate about whether or not a single sustainability report can satisfy the needs of multiple stakeholders – that is, employees, NGOs, issue experts, critics, partners, peer companies, investors, analysts, consumers, communities, workers, media, governments … the list goes on!  Different stakeholders have different interests in EGS data, programs, and strategies.  Being accountable to all of these stakeholders requires engagement, partnership, and dialogue – much more than simply producing a report. Yet the reporting process can inform these audiences, and I encourage companies to start by determining which groups are core to their business success. Target your reporting approach for these key groups, and ensure others can easily find information so they aren’t left out.

So how does a company balance the need for more information, while also maintaining credibility and relevance? At Timberland, we’ve continued our experimentation with different reporting formats. Our evolving reporting and communication approach reflects an evolving and improved sustainability strategy for managing risk, creating value and increasing consumer relevance – components that are necessary for our entire business model to succeed.

Whether you are a first time reporter or have been at it for years, here are my top 5 tips for effectively leveraging reporting as a management and communication tool:

  1. Ensure your report reflects material impacts – GRI advises that “the information in a report should cover topics and indicators that reflect the organization’s significant economic, environmental, and social impacts, or that would substantively influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders.”  A credible report should cover such impacts, and by engaging stakeholders in a materiality assessment process, you can prioritize resources and reporting topics. Ford Motor Company has been producing an excellent Materiality Matrix for years.
  2. Consider different stakeholders’ entry points and interests – different stakeholder groups read reports for different reasons. A detailed data set may appeal to a socially responsible investor, whereas a story about your program in action could be more relevant to an issue expert looking to understand supply chain management practices. Timberland issued our 2007-8 CSR report as a “suite” of communication tools – including a summary report (only 30 pages!), detailed “Dig Deeper” papers for those looking for more details, an online forum to engage stakeholders in dialogue on key issues, and a consumer-facing brochure.
  3. Tell the good and the bad – In today’s globalized society, if you’re not telling your own story in a truthful, credible, and engaging manner, others will simply tell it for you – and sometimes inaccurately! And yes, even if you are the most transparent company in the world, this still happens. But being open, honest and engaging can put you ahead of the curve when it comes to stakeholder engagement, campaigns, and trust-building. Dell has an open report, including discussion of tough issues like eliminating hazardous chemicals.
  4. Make it engaging – which will help attract different types of stakeholders, too. Timberland’s new Responsibility website aims to do just that. The site is much more than a report; it’s a comprehensive and interactive hub for all information about Timberland’s social and environmental activities. Viewers can read Featured Stories about topics such as our sustainable store design, work with tanneries to reduce their environmental impacts, efforts to empower factory workers, and community greening. It’s important to consider the best ways to reach targeted stakeholder audiences – as a footwear company, consumers are key and that’s why these stories are written in a news-editorial style and linked to CSR Stakeholder Calls, Voices of Challenge dialogue, blog and social media.
  5. A report is not the means to an end – Use the reporting process to build increased accountability for sustainability issues within your organization. Reporting efforts should be aimed at both internal and external audiences. And don’t forget to engage and share results with your own business units and internal leaders. It’s critical to build buy-in and ownership of ESG issues in order to successfully integrate sustainability into your business model.

This post also currently appears on the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship blog.  Thank you, BCCCC, for sharing content with us!

150 Gifts, 90 Timberland Elves (and a Partridge in a Pear Tree)

Timberland employees are always quick to lend a hand in community service.  This holiday season, we offered employees the chance to open their hearts (and wallets) by purchasing a gift for someone in need in the local community.  On a holiday tree in our cafeteria area, we hung tags containing wish-list items for individuals supported by several local nonprofit organizations.

We started by hanging about 50 tags.  Within three hours, all were gone.  We needed more!  I reached out to our service partners for more names and more wish lists.  As fast as we could hang more tags, Timberland employees scooped them up.  Our original target of serving 50 individuals soon increased to more than 80.

But we didn’t stop there.  At our in-house wrapping party, 20 employees added bows, tags, and ribbon to 146 packages.  We sent elves (who looked suspiciously like bootmakers…) out to each of our partner organizations to deliver bundles of gifts to some very deserving folks.

Jolly Timberland volunteers wrapping some of the donated gifts!

When all was said and done, we supported five local organizations with 150 gifts delivered to 84 individuals through the efforts of more than 90 volunteers!  And although it’s been said, many times, many ways…we couldn’t help feeling that it truly is better to give than to receive.

Our version of Santa's sleigh, piled high with gifts

Special thanks to our nonprofit partners for allowing us the chance to share our gifts during the holidays: Seacoast Family Promise, Our House for Girls, The Housing Partnership, New Generation, and AIDS Response Seacoast.

And thanks to all our employees who got involved—once again, you’ve helped Timberland make a difference!

I love my job: sharing gifts with one very happy recipient

Will Sustainability Reach the Mainstream?

A key tenet of being a responsible company is to manage risk and create value for the long-term sustainability of the corporation. At Timberland, we believe the concepts of commerce (sustainable shareholder returns) and justice (operating sustainably, including social and environmental management) go hand in hand.  Our challenge is to not only demonstrate the business case for sustainability within our own company, but to ensure that others do too.

Earlier this year, former Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz and PPR Chief Sustainability Officer Jochen Zeitz engaged in spirited dialogue about PPR’s Puma brand initiating a new sustainability accounting measure: their Environmental Profit & Loss statement.  I am impressed with Puma’s effort to calculate and assign financial costs to environmental impacts – something that will help move the needle for mainstream analysts to incorporate “that type of sustainability” into financial valuations of companies.  We’ve seen few other companies proactively quantify sustainability impacts (Baxter Healthcare and SAP provide interesting examples; see also Timberland’s CSR Stakeholder Call from May 2011 – Reducing Environmental Impact & Improving Bottom Line Benefits), but clearly not a groundswell.

Could the needle be starting to move a little more? Last week Puma announced it would be taking its Environmental P&L to greater scale – the brand’s sustainability accounting work will be extended to other luxury brands owned by PPR, including Gucci, Stella McCartney, and Yves Saint Laurent.  Hopefully, this is an indicator of how one brands’ sustainability efforts can influence more than their individual operations and sustainability plans. (And before you ponder too much about the applicability of this point coming from an employee of a recently acquired brand, yes – we at Timberland are thinking about opportunities to scale our experience within a greater family of brands too. See more on that below).

Engaging the financial community

It’s not just corporations that need to push for greater inclusion of social and environmental issues in financial accounting. I believe the time has come for the financial community to explore the value of “non-financial performance” in meaningful ways.  There are many players working on such efforts. For example, Bloomberg now puts out ESG (environmental, social, and governance) data on its terminals, accessed by 300,000 customers – including Wall Street and other analysts. Last year, the SEC issued interpretive guidance for climate risk to be disclosed in financial filings. And a new reporting framework is being developed by the International Integrated Reporting Committee to bridge the gap between purely financial vs. purely sustainability reporting efforts. All of these efforts aim to put traditional ESG information in front of mainstream analysts. The argument is that if we can translate such issues into financial models, the “dual meaning” of sustainability may actually help drive investment decisions.  I agree with this sentiment – but there’s one player missing: the investors themselves. There’s too much talk of “us” (CSR practitioners) translating/ appropriating CSR data for “them.”  To truly drive the relevance of both financial and ESG information, we should be inviting analysts and investors to weigh in on sustainability accounting practices, standards development, and how to review issues like supply chain vulnerability (in the form of climate adaptation or labor unrest, e.g.) as components of a corporation’s short term and long term business viability.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pulling On Our Boots for Serv-a-palooza

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a month-plus community service effort, carried out by Timberland employees across the globe.  The initiative is “Serv-a-palooza” – what started as a one-day, annual event where Timberland employees would abandon their desks and day jobs to serve in their local communities, and has grown to become a weeks-long series of service events executed in countries and communities around the world — all focused on meeting critical needs, creating sustainable impact and celebrating the power and passions of Timberland employees.

Serv-a-palooza is more than an event – it’s a representation of what we do best, which is sharing our strength to create positive outcomes.  Our employees’ commitment to and passion for service is far too great to fit in an 8-hour workday, and so to see the program grow much bigger and broader than it was when we started 14 years ago isn’t just gratifying – it’s absolutely necessary.

Timberland President & CEO, Jeff Swartz

Throughout September and October, Timberland employees and partners will pull on their boots and make a difference through service projects which speak to our company’s New England heritage, commitment to social and environmental responsibility, and passion for the outdoors.

In New Hampshire, hundreds of Timberland employees will do their part tomorrow to positively impact their local communities – as well as those that are not so local.  At our corporate headquarters in Stratham, volunteers will frame four houses for Habitat for Humanity.  Two of the houses will go to families from Joplin, Missouri, whose homes were destroyed by tornadoes earlier this year, and two houses will go to families in need in Kansas City, Missouri.

Other Stratham-area projects taking place tomorrow will include painting and landscaping at a non-profit and community center, and constructing an outdoor stage and amphitheatre for the town of Newmarket.  Timberland’s first New Hampshire headquarters and factory were located in Newmarket, and the small mill town is affectionately considered the “birthplace” of the Timberland® brand.

Our roots are in Newmarket … it seems only fitting that our boots are headed back there.  Many employees – including me – have really precious memories of our early days in Newmarket, and I hope the space and the foundation we create there will help create the same kind of memories for others in the future.

- Jeff Swartz

Stay tuned to the Bootmakers Blog as we share stories, photos and videos from Serv-a-palooza 2011.

Help Us Find a NH Service Project!

On September 8th, Timberland employees, partners and volunteers will pull on our boots and make a difference in communities worldwide as part of our annual global service event, Serv-a-palooza.  And we could use your help.

We’re seeking proposals for a one day, large-scale, transformational service project for 150-300 committed and passionate volunteers within a reasonable driving distance of our headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire.  (We reserve the right to define “reasonable” based on how well your project meets all of our other criteria!)  The winning project will further our goal of building and strengthening communities and speak to our core values of humanity, humility, integrity and excellence.

We’re grateful for the decades of community support and partnership we’ve already received, and eager to express our commitment to continued partnership and service.  If you think you’ve got a great idea for a service project that will help us leave a positive impact on your community or organization, please complete our Request for Proposal and email it to Brianne Wood.

Timberland’s 2010 CSR Results and the Importance of Target Setting

It’s that time of year where people in my position are busy compiling year-end social and environmental performance which will eventually end up in our Corporate Social Responsibility report. Timberland has been reporting on our impacts since 2000, and we’re proud to share our accomplishments and how we got there. What’s equally as important is communicating our failure to meet certain targets, why that may have happened and what we’re doing about it. We call this balanced transparency – and it’s critical for building credibility as a responsible business.

Why would we publish targets that might be aspirational? As a public company, we strive to make responsible choices every day for our business, communities and the outdoors. We vet our targets internally with business units who are responsible for implementing programs to meet these goals, and also externally with issue experts, NGOs, and other stakeholders who push us to reduce our impact and improve the places we live and work. This process holds us to a higher standard. For example, we recently achieved a 38% GHG emissions reduction at the end of 2010 – a huge accomplishment by corporate standards. Sure, we didn’t meet our target last year – but we would never have reduced our footprint by as much as we did had we not set an extremely aggressive goal to in the first place.

And now we’re at it again… at the end of 2010, we collected data to see how we fared against other bold goals. Below, you can find a sampling of our year-end 2010 results, organized by Timberland’s four CSR “pillars,” which are also available for download at By analyzing our current progress and challenges, we can now look to a longer-term horizon to consider new and different ways we will reduce our impact. For the last six months, we have been working on new targets that push us even further. We’ll publish these goals externally so that stakeholders can track our progress – look for our new CSR report late this summer!

2010 CSR Results


  • As already noted, we achieved a 38% emissions reduction in 2010. This achievement is for our owned and operated footprint and employee air travel, over a 2006 baseline. Our recently released white paper gives all of the details.


  • Green Index® scores stayed relatively flat, which is an achievement because we scored a greater variety of products in 2010 (vs. mainly Earthkeeper product or “green” outdoor product in 2009), which included heavier leather styles that tend to score worse.  An increase in recycled content, our phase-out of PVC, and continued reduction in VOC consumption helped improve scores.
  • Of the cotton we purchased in 2010, 34% was organic. This is significantly higher than 2009 (18%), which is impressive given the sharp rise in the price of organic cotton and cotton as a whole.


  • At the end of 2010, 32% of our suppliers had High Priority scores (compared to 32% at the end of 2009) primarily due to Wages and Working Hours issues. With the economic situation improving while labor shortages continued, working hours was a particularly challenging issue for many factories this year.  Our sourcing managers are increasing regular assessments of factories’ production capacities and making adjustments in orders (or securing additional suppliers).


  • Timberland employees served a total of 75,859 hours in 2010, which represents an 8% decrease in hours served compared to 2009.  Continuing high demands on employees’ time at our manufacturing facility in the Dominican Republic along with our distribution centers in the U.S. contributed to a significant decrease in hours served as compared to last year.

Timberland COC Team Engages in Southeast India Service

Timberland’s Code of Conduct coordinator Ann Caron shared this report from the Code of Conduct Summit we recently held in India:

Timberland’s annual Code of Conduct (COC) Summit, held in India in January, expanded its scope this year to include licensee representatives from CWF and Sperian, sourcing representatives from Timberland’s International Design Center in London, and members of the management teams of Matrix Clothing, Farida Shoes, Eastman Apparel, Birdy Apparel, Pou Yuen, and Li & Fung.  This 40+ person group gathered in Bangalore, Ambur, and Chennai, to engage in 8 days of learning, collaborating, and networking to strengthen our knowledge base and passion for Timberland’s Code of Conduct and environmental values.

Of course, no Timberland gathering would be complete without at least a few hours of community service.  On day 4, the group traveled to Farida for a tour of two of their facilities.  We were welcomed with warmth and hospitality, and were able to see Timberland shoes being produced in front of us.  After our tour, we traveled to Farida’s medical facility, where they offer healthcare to their workforce and the community.  When we reached the clinic, we were greeted by a dry, barren landscape, and a pile of sod, several trees, and a small mountain of soil.

We quickly donned our personal protective equipment, grabbed our tools and got to work.  We spread the pile of soil into the back yard of the clinic – no fancy bobcats or tractors, we formed an assembly line and passed shallow bowls of soil from the front to the back.

Then we laid out sod — not in rolls, but in square foot pieces — over the newly spread soil, transforming the barren soil into a lush, green carpet.  We finished by planting trees in the front and back yards to someday provide shade for the patients seeking medical care.

During this time, we created quite a stir among the community.  Passersby stopped to watch us, and even pitch in.  Children watched and cheered us on, and even joined us for a few photo opportunities.  There were even a few cows in residence.

The participants were asked to reflect on their service experience.  Here are some of the things they shared:

“First of all, my quick thinking is why are we not using more effective tools to move that pile of mud away to the garden?  Then fantastic things happened when my body turned right and turned left quickly – I saw that rhythm of life, the love people who want to give and the happiness of working hard together.  While the mud land was being changed to be green, that motivated and excited me.  Yes, do the right thing and make things better.  This is my first service event this year, and my first in India.  Thanks for inviting me to join.”

“Community service does not have a face, color, nationality, religious or political belief attached to it.  I was someone from another country trying to create a better living environment for people that I did not know and that I will probably never meet or see.”

“I was inspired very much by the way you all were dedicated and involved until the completion and the way you all moved with me, really I am honored.  I have a feeling that we all belong to one family.  All I can give you back is only thanks, thanks, and thank you all so much.”

“I loved that there were local kids present and asking questions.  It was great to tell them what we were doing and have them interested in service in the future.  One wanted to join us.  I felt it was a great multi-member group – COC, factory, IDC, and locals, and that showed what can be done when there is one main goal.  We were fast!”

“Together, we made it better.”

The Farida team, who already serves its community on a regular basis, was thrilled with the quick transformation of the clinic’s grounds and was inspired by the team’s “Pull on your boots and make a difference” spirit.  The COC team was exhausted, but at the same time energized and inspired by the impact we created in such a short time.

Just another example of how a small group of committed citizens can make a difference.

The Value of Quarterly Reporting

As one of the only companies out there that’s currently reporting non-financial performance on a regular basis, I’m often asked “what value does Timberland get out of quarterly reporting?” Although it’s a pretty complicated question in itself, what often follows is a myriad of questions that take more than a few minutes to answer: How did you make this decision? Who’s using the quarterly reports? Does increased disclosure help with other parts of your CSR strategy?

Since Timberland began reporting our environmental and social performance on a quarterly basis in 2008 we’ve learned a lot. Our intent in issuing reports on a more frequent basis was to analyze, disclose, and integrate CSR information within the company in the same manner that we manage our financial performance. Our quarterly statements feature a dashboard of 15 key performance indicators, including analysis of individual progress towards our long-term goals. It’s our way of tracking performance in a more detailed manner, and also sharing the details of how we’re faring against our targets in a closer-to-real time scenario (as opposed to a backward looking CSR “statement” of the previous year’s impacts – often released long after we’ve made business decisions based on such performance). Note: we do believe such accountability statements are valuable and have published bi-annual CSR reports as an opportunity to share stories that illustrate our progress, successes and challenges in more detail. Our 2007-2008 CSR report was released in October 2009 and we will be issuing a new report later this year with 2009-2010 performance information.

The benefit of evaluating our performance quarterly is that this more timely information helps us to make changes to meet our goals more efficiently and effectively than we would if we relied solely on annual data. It also provides us with data that’s critical for internal stakeholder discussions and business decision-making.   Our quarterly CSR performance metrics equip business leaders to better understand how trends (and challenges) in the “CSR world” are related to their regular activities and our company’s overall bottom line. This includes things like reducing our overall carbon footprint (for the benefit of reducing total energy costs across the company) and increasing organic cotton or other renewable materials to deliver sustainable products to consumers ((such as Timberland’s Earthkeepers product line, which is increasing rapidly and best demonstrates the inclusion of environmentally-preferred materials).  We have a lot of work to do in this area – but it’s an important part of leveraging more sophisticated data as a means to create shared ownership and accountability, rather than simply sharing information among colleagues.

What will this frequency of reporting ultimately achieve? I believe we’re working towards a system where sustainability risks and opportunities could be evaluated in the current global market. If we can share information in ways that also highlight the need for long-term valuation of such priorities, that will serve as an opportunity to educate and engage different stakeholders in the process. Is our approach perfect? No. Does it take additional time? Yes (there, I said it). But it is helping us to create an integrated strategy for analysis, implementation, and accountability. Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz calls this commerce & justice — working hand in hand for the benefit of our overall company, not in separate silos.