Posts Tagged ‘nature conservancy’

Excited About Planting Trees

Since last Tuesday, September 28, I’ve been coming to work excited. I’m talking two-stairs-at-a-time excited. Excited about planting trees and excited to think about how to get other people excited about planting trees.

It was last Tuesday that I monitored Timberland’s quarterly stakeholder conference call about “The Real Impact of Tree Planting.”  (You can listen to the podcast here.) Our CEO, Jeff Swartz, hosts these calls to discuss with stakeholders (who range from other CEOs to non-profit leaders to influential environmental stewards to Timberland consumers), topics that directly impact Timberland’s CSR agenda. The goal of the call is to share with the participants ideas we consider, challenges we face and best practices we develop as we go about our business of making boots and being an environmentally and socially responsible company. Jeff and invited partners get the dialogue started and then the stakeholders share their thoughts, ideas and challenges.

The quarterly calls are stakeholder engagement at its finest. It’s a cool concept – stakeholder engagement. And guess what, it really works! I know because I witnessed it last Tuesday.

After Jeff and Dave Deppner from Trees for the Future, our partner in the Yele Vert tree nursery project in Haiti, set up the call with some really meaningful comments, the callers started asking great questions and sharing some valuable insight. These were extremely smart, engaged people from organizations like Alcoa, the World Wildlife Fund and the New York Restoration Project – people who really care about trees and are managing these truly impactful projects, just like the ones Timberland is supporting in Haiti and China.

The questions and the ensuing dialogue got me thinking about the commitment to plant five million trees in five years in Haiti and China that Timberland made at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) the previous week. I wondered; how can we a) get people to understand why we plant trees and why it matters; and b) get other companies to join us to exponentially increase the impact.

Yeah, increase exponentially. If Timberland and its partners, Trees for the Future and Yele Haiti, can build six tree nurseries in Gonaives, Haiti in less than six months by engaging and training the local farmers, who will eventually take ownership of the nurseries, imagine what can five companies like Timberland could do with the help of five partners like Trees for the Future.

If our six nurseries will produce more than 1 million trees per year at full capacity, imagine what 30 nurseries will produce in a year – 5 million! And if those 5 million trees we’re planting annually provide the local citizens with sustainable resources for food, fuel, shelter and watershed management – not to mention jobs – well, imagine how many houses we can build, homes we can heat, stoves we can fuel and mouths we can feed.

And imagine – this is what gets really exciting – if the local farming population, which is now trained and engaged at every level of forestry and agriculture, arrives at the juncture where their crop productivity has increased to the point where they can not only feed their families but have enough corn and rice and other corps left over to sell – for a profit – to the very companies that initially helped the farmer set up their tree nurseries!

And then imagine if each of those companies implemented creative ways, like social networks, to tell the story of the farmer and his tree nurseries to their consumers. The stories would excite the consumers and inspire them to tell their friends and those friends told their friends and so on and so on – to the point where the company gained more consumers, sold more products and were able to invest more dollars into building more tree nurseries.

Imagine. Isn’t it exciting to imagine?

So what’s next? I’m going to start reaching out to leaders at other companies and see if I can’t get them excited and interested in planting trees with us. And you? For starters, you can check out our new Facebook application where you can cause real trees to be planted in Haiti by creating a virtual forest. The more virtual trees and virtual forests, the more trees we’ll plant in Haiti – in addition to the ones we’re already planting there. And while you’re surfing around the app, check out the videos that chronicle our projects in Haiti and share them with your friends. Then, share your ideas on how to get people more excited about planting trees on the application’s Wall, or join the conversation on our Earthkeeper Forum.  If you’ve read this far, you’re now officially a Timberland stakeholder and as such, we welcome your engagement at any and all levels.

Imagine a company that wants to engage with its stakeholders about the simple act of planting a tree. Isn’t that exciting?

Margaret Morey-Reuner
Senior Manager of Values Marketing, Timberland

Tree Planting Recap: The Importance of Strategy, Collaboration, Engagement

This morning Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz hosted one of our regular CSR Stakeholder Calls. Coming off our commitment made to plant 5 million trees in the next 5 years (announced last week at the Clinton Global Initiative), Jeff was joined by Trees for the Future Founder Dave Deppner to talk about The Real Impact of Tree Planting. Our logo’s a tree and we’re an outdoor brand, so tree planting might seem like a natural connection for Timberland. But we don’t just plant trees for the sake of doing so — we’re committed to ensuring our tree planting efforts create positive impacts for people and the environment. And what’s more, we know we can’t do this alone.

Our friends at the New York Restoration Project(NYRP) eloquently stated the case on today’s call: having an effective strategy is necessary to be successful. In the case of NYRP, they’re deciding where to plant 1 million trees based (in part) on data that connects adolescent high asthma rates with a lack of clean air in local neighborhoods. This is not simply environmental restoration (a worthy cause unto itself) – it’s the creation of health, social and economic benefits.

This is the same model that Timberland uses. We truly believe that tree planting can be a viable way to create sustainable agriculture, environmental restoration and socio-economic development, whether we’re planting trees in the Horqin Desert in China, the Marston Vale forest just north of London, or in rural communities. The areas of need are too many to name. On this morning’s call, we took a virtual trip around the world – discussing tree planting projects that Timberland is involved in, as well as the work of many others. We started off with the reforestation work underway in Haiti, and stakeholder participants shared information about their own projects – such as the World Wildlife Fund’s project to restore tiger habitat in Nepal or The Nature Conservancy’s tree planting efforts in Brazil.

So here we’ve gone from Haiti to China to Nepal to Brazil – “all without getting on a plane,” as Jeff Swartz candidly pointed out (how’s that for having your CEO understand the connection to carbon footprint!). The point I’m making here is that Timberland can’t do this alone. We rely on partnerships with groups that have the know-how, technical expertise and commitment to empowering local communities to be active participants in our environmental stewardship efforts. And while our NGO partners are critical to implementing these projects, we also know that Timberland is but just one company what if we convened a group of brands and NGOs to come together to restore physical environments and create sustainable livelihoods for local people?

Now that’s a conversation I’m dying to have. Go to http://www.earthkeeper.com/Voices/Service to share information about your projects, aspirations, or ambitions. We’d love to hear your thoughts and engage with you further!

Beth Holzman
CSR Strategy & Reporting Manager, Timberland

Group Therapy at the Clinton Global Initiative

The following excerpt is from a blog post written by Maria Surma Manka for Earth&Industry.com.  Maria was in New York this week attending the Clinton Global Initiative and created a series of insightful blog posts about the experience.  We thank Maria for sharing, and invite you to visit Earth&Industry for her complete blog post series.

Who would’ve thought that a convening of so many policy wonks, business suits, and serious-minded NGOs at the Clinton Global Initiative would result in some of the best entertainment I’ve seen in a while? Laughter! Tears! Rants!

Continuing the day’s theme of market-based solutions, a discussion of this strategy to address environmental issues was held with Wal-Mart senior VP of sustainability Matt Kistler, Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz and The Nature Conservancy’s lead scientist, M. Sanjayan.

This is hard work noted Swartz:

“The private sector is not the answer, because there is no answer. The absence of leadership is the crisis – the government needs to do their job and set regulations. And NGOs think perfect is the enemy of good – if we [Timberland] stick our necks out, they [NGOs] chop it off. We can only have a conversation about solutions if government can unpuff its chest, if business can uncross its arms, and if activists can stop spitting on us all! I was at Copenhagen…it was all rhetoric. I’m afraid we’re losing the war.”

As Swartz took a breather from this (really insightful) run, Sanjayan jumped in to agree: “What moves players to get involved in partnership? Self interest…I don’t think people really care about their grandkids, actually. We’re too self-centered for that. I think maybe people care about their kids, but that’s about as far as they go.”

As the session came to a close and the mood spiraled downward, Kistler of Wal-Mart had one of the last words about working together for sustainability and change. I couldn’t catch all that he was saying, as he got very emotional and choked up at this point. But what was clear from this discussion – from the rants, jokes and tears – was that this sustainability work is damn difficult. Companies, NGOs and governments are working on it, but results can come painfully slowly in some cases, not at all in others, and in the end you question the overall impact of your years of sweat anyway. I’m not saying we should go easy on the big guys, but let’s just take a breath and acknowledge that this work is rough. In the end, we all hope to make a difference…grandkids or not.

Batkeeping in Benelux

Our Timberland colleagues in Benelux spent their recent Serv-a-palooza service day at Fort Walem — part of the old fort belt built around the city of Antwerp in the mid-to-late 1800s.  The fort is now under the protection of Natuurpunt (a nature conservation organization based in northern Belgium), whose members and volunteer partners are working hard to make the former fort a haven for “nature recovery.”

Our Serv-a-palooza volunteers spent their day cleaning out the old fort’s tunnels filled with thousands of gas masks, filters, rusty tubes and rotted boxes.  Once cleaned out the tunnels are used, essentially, as "bat caves" – providing shelter for bats seeking a safe, comfortable spot where they can hibernate out of harm’s way for the winter.

Congratulations to our Benelux Earthkeepers for a creative "recycling" effort — creating new purpose for an old fort,  and providing much-needed wildlife habitats for winter-weary bats.