Posts Tagged ‘sustainable business’

Behind the Scenes at Grain Surfboards

Eco-conscious, locally sourced and community driven, Grain handbuilds wooden surfboards, skateboards, bodyboards and handboards in southern Maine. We met up with the Grain guys a few months ago to get their thoughts for our Expert Advice section – and in addition to their words of wisdom, we also came away a bunch of great photos of board-building action.  Here are a few of our favorite shots that didn’t make it to the website:

Mike and Brad (Grain's co-founders) with a couple of beautiful boards

Brad -after we asked him how many bugs he eats on his morning commute

Hookset Premiums, working hard

Nolan focusing on shaping the rail on a lucky someone’s Fish

Recycling wood shavings

You can learn more about Grain on their website.  To learn about how they’re working to be a sustainable business, check out our men’s site.

Follow Your Passion: Expert Advice from Grain Surfboards

Mike and Brad are the founders of Grain Surfboards – an eco-conscious, locally-sourced and community driven business located in southern Maine near the Atlantic Ocean (all the better for putting their boards to the test).

The guys of Grain

We caught up with them during a few quiet moments when they weren’t focused on waves or work to see what tips they have for other aspiring small and sustainable business owners:

Source local. Not only does it help your community and economy when you buy your materials locally, it cuts down on transportation emissions.  Grain uses cedar from a local mill for their boards.

Local wood makes for great boards

Hire local. Another great way to support your community is by hiring your (qualified) neighbors.  Some of Grain’s employees live so close by, they travel to work by bicycle (talk about a fun commute!).

Grain's employee parking lot

Use everything. Grain gives its wood shavings to farmers, who use it as bedding for animals.  What kind of waste are you throwing in the landfill that could have a useful second life?  (At Timberland, we’ve started using old fishing nets to make material for our jackets – who knew?)

Some lucky animal will be sleeping on these tomorrow

And finally: Follow your passion. Mike and Brad and their team are crazy about 2 things: surfing and treating the world right – and those passions shine through in every decision and surfboard they make.  If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, life’s not nearly as much fun.

To see what other tips Mike and Brad have, visit the Expert Advice section of our men’s website.  To see for yourself the beautiful boards they produce, go to www.grainsurfboards.com.

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.

Sustainabilty Demands Leadership, Not Posturing

Too bad that the communications department at PPR, the parent company of Puma and Gucci, doesn’t seem to be held to the same standards of original design and creativity that the product design departments are.  Their recent announcement about a new sustainability agenda focused on the social and environmental impacts of PPR’s business reads a lot like an off-the-rack knock-off of existing thinking, re-packaged as important business leadership. Tant pis; the world needs better.

That PPR aspires to be an active builder of Moral Capitalism is heartening. Way too few CEOs in this industry are even remotely serious about real sustainability.  In a world where government leadership on climate change is hot air rhetoric, period, private sector leaders have a unique opportunity to link solid, for-profit thinking/doing with sustainable business practices, creating real profit and social impact.

So, to les Pinaults, bienvenue, welcome — glad you are determined to be involved in the conversation.  But if you want to lead—the way a Gucci design leads—we need much more from you.

First, check the rhetoric about “groundbreaking” and “pioneering” and “world’s first” in the press materials.  For more than a decade, a group of competitors have been doing serious work to build sustainability into the fashion industry.  You are more than welcome to join the Outdoor Industry Association’s Eco-Working Group, which has been laboring the past several years to create a standard measurement system for the environmental impact of products.  Or, do connect to the Apparel Coalition, which counts as founding members the likes of Nordstrom and Gap and Adidas and Patagonia, who are trying to build consistent standards into how the apparel industry approaches sustainability.  Sustainability in the fashion industry requires collaboration, period.  If Walmart, with all their scale and power, believes that the best path to industrial reform requires other brands to collaborate rather than “go it alone,” then respectfully — connect to the existing efforts underway.  Given your creativity, your brand building power, your star power — consider building on the existing coalition of the truly committed.

Second, if you are serious about sustainability, consider some understanding of existing best practices.  Given the hurdles of consumer confusion, and government inaction, there is no time for anyone to reinvent wheels that are already rolling in the pursuit of sustainability. So it is disappointing to see you embrace buying carbon offsets as a best practice, rather than dedicating your creative energy to pursuing real, concrete emissions reductions in your operations and value chain.   Four years ago our company publically set a measureable, concrete goal—to become carbon neutral by the end of 2010.  To achieve carbon neutrality, we committed to cutting our emissions associated with our facilities and employee air travel by 50%.  And with hard work we did exactly what you can do—we reduced our emissions—by 38%.  We did not meet our goal of 50%, but we did fundamentally reorient our business practice.  We began to transform ourselves into a sustainable business.  And so when we wrote the check offsetting the balance of the emissions we are accountable for, we wrote the check with the determination that with more innovation, more hard work, more commitment, the “check writing” part of our sustainability agenda can be for a very short time period.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t rework your value chain to eliminate emissions—if we can, you surely can.

No one in the fashion space has more vision and daring than you.  No one competes harder than you.  You lead in our industry—and so more is expected of you, once you leap onto the short list of fashion brands that know we can create profit for shareholders in a sustainable fashion.  Lights are down, influential eyes are all set in their chairs, the catwalk is empty, the curtain is opening….and because this is the PPR sustainability show, there are big expectations.  Lights, camera…. let’s see PPR’s leadership in action.

Going Green in Boston

I’m not Irish, but I’m sure feeling it today.  St. Patrick’s Day in Boston is an unparalleled experience.

No, I’m not downing Guinness at the Black Rose … I’m celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by opening the new Timberland store on Boston’s famed Newbury Street. What’s so green about a shoe store?  In a word, everything.  From the tabletops reclaimed from old athletic bleachers to the recycled stoneware floor tiles to LED lighting and low VOC paints, we’ve designed this store – and the ones like it that will open later this spring in New York and San Francisco – to serve as a real-life example of how we’re working to reduce our environmental footprint and operate our business more responsibly and sustainably.

Despite the St. Paddy’s Day launch and the opportunity it gives us to cleverly (or not) play up the “green” aspects of our store, our commitment to environmental sustainability isn’t a marketing tactic … it’s as much a part of our heritage as Boston itself.  My grandfather started this business as the Abington Shoe Company on Camden Street, just blocks from where our new store is opening today.

I can remember my grandfather stopping to pick up sewing bobbins off the factory floor when I was a kid … as he would pick them up, he’d say, “there’s a penny … there’s a penny …” it wasn’t called recycling in his day, it was called frugality.  Make the best use that you can, for as long as you can, out of what you have – not in order to save the environment, but in order to save a buck.  Three generations later, here we are staring at reclaimed wood countertops and marveling at the shiny new LED light fixtures.  Same value, different outcomes.

Some might argue that it would be cheaper and less complicated to design our new stores with less emphasis on the environmental and more focus on, I dunno, the actual products we’re trying to sell … but then they would be missing the point that businesses today should be doing both.  We don’t have to make a choice between creating beautiful, durable products that perform and operating our business in a way that’s mindful of the environment or our impact on it.  To the contrary — as an brand and a business that makes boots, shoes and gear for the outdoors, it’s in our best interest to help preserve it … and reduce our impact on it, any and every way we can.  Just as every new store puts us more boldly on the map, every step we take to put our environmental values into action – from Earthkeepers products to stores designed with environmental consciousness and consideration – lends credence to the  notion that businesses can and should be a force for environmental good.

In the spirit of environmental responsibility, I can do without the Dirty Water (yech) … but otherwise, the Standells had it right.  Boston, you’re my home … and there’s no place I’d rather be celebrating heritage and values and all things green today.

Ethical Corporation Honors Sustainable Businesses

At the Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Summit held earlier this month, 20 organizations and individuals were honored for their commitment to innovative practices in corporate responsibility.

Timberland was proud to be among the honorees, recognized for our Don’t Tell Us It Can’t Be Done campaign which encouraged consumers to voice their support for world leaders attending COP15 to set meaningful climate standards. While COP 15 didn’t produce the outcomes we were all hoping for, our campaign succeeded as a means of actively engaging consumers in the climate change issue – powerful progress, in our book.

Other companies doing good things and earning recognition as 2010 Responsible Business Summit award winners include:

PepsiCo, for their direct seeding of rice technology – an innovation that has resulted in a savings of 5.5 billion liters of water in India (among the largest rice growers in the world) and has helped Pepsi achieve “positive water balance” – meaning that they are actually giving back more water than their business consumes.

Continental Clothing, for their EarthPositive® Apparel. This organically and ethically-made product line was launched in 2008 and incorporates best practices to reduce the social and environmental damage normally associated with cotton farming and textile production. The line is manufactured solely using sustainable energy generated from wind power.

Produce World for their innovative approach to sustainability reporting, which includes a web portal which gives stakeholders access to unedited, real-time data about the company’s performance (including carbon and water intensity, accident frequency and waste management) on a site by site, month by month basis against each of the company’s social and environmental KPIs.

We find Ethical Corp’s awards particularly endearing because they include a “Greenwasher of the Year” award to recognize an organization (based on judges’ choice, not entries) that “continues to do considerable environmental damage whilst professing to be sustainable.”  Sometimes recognizing the bad is as important as recognizing the good.

For a complete list of this year’s Responsible Business Summit honorees and their award-winning initiatives, visit ethicalcorporation.com.

Ceres Sustainability Reporting Awards

At the annual Ceres conference held earlier this week, Timberland was very proud to accept the award for the Best Sustainability Report.  We’re honored to receive this important recognition, particularly considering the first-class caliber of contenders we were up against, including:

Ford Motor Company
(First Runner Up, Best Sustainability Report)

Ford’s 2008-09 Blueprint for Sustainability Report addresses the fundamental challenge of sustainability and includes candid discussion about Ford’s past performance, mistakes made and how they’re working to further integrate sustainability into their business model.

Seventh Generation

(Best  Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Report)

Seventh Gen’s 2008 Corporate Consciousness Report includes focus on two key considerations for sustainable business: supply chain and competition.  The report features an in-depth discussion about how the company engages with its manufacturing partners to improve sustainability performance, as well as how it uses industry collaboration to create positive change.

The fact that the Ceres-ACCA Reporting Awards program is ten years old and counting is testament itself that there is a real need for and interest in business communicating openly and honestly about its efforts to create positive environmental and social impact.  We’ve drawn insight and inspiration from past award recipients, and we hope we can live up to their leadership and do the same for other organizations.

For more information about the Ceres-ACCA Reporting Awards, click here.

Ceres Report: Sustainable Biz a Necessity, Not a Nicety

A report issued by Ceres this week sends a message loud and clear to for-profit business:
Start taking sustainability seriously – or else.

As energy prices rise, populations grow and resources become increasingly constrained, the report explains, sustainability strategies are no longer a “nice to do,” but rather a critical business necessity – and a factor in determining success.

“Sustainability performance is fundamental for business success in the 21st century,” said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres, which published the report, The 21st Century Corporation: The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability. “If businesses deepen their efforts to solve social and environmental threats, it will position them to innovate and compete in the fast-changing, resource-constrained global economy.”

The report provides a roadmap of sorts for integrating sustainability into every aspect of business, focusing on 4 distinct areas: governance, stakeholder engagement, disclosure and performance.  It also calls for significant performance improvements from companies by 2020. Among the report’s 20 key expectations for companies:

  • Make energy efficiency and renewable energy the foundation for company operations
  • Design and implement closed-loop systems so that air and wastewater emissions are eliminated and zero waste is produced
  • Dedicate 50 percent of research and development investment to developing sustainability solutions
  • Compensate and provide incentives for top executives and other employees to drive sustainability into the business

The good news is that many companies already recognize the challenges outlined in the Ceres report, and are incorporating them into their business planning.   Further good news?  Given the best practice examples the report includes, along with the clearly-defined roadmap for implementation, companies that are currently lagging behind can quickly and easily become educated, inspired and on their way to greater sustainability.

More information and report downloads can be found at www.ceres.org.

Good Green Reading: Conversations with Green Gurus

Conversations with Green Gurus: The Collective Wisdom of Environmental Movers and Shakers brings together in one place the collected wisdom of some of the most influential environmental leaders of our time. Interviews in this book will help readers figure out what is presently going on in terms of the environment and what they should be doing about what one of the Gurus calls ‘a planetary emergency.’

The Conversations cover a broad range of environmental issues as they apply to society and business, as well as provide cutting edge thinking as a basis for shaping the future for individuals and companies in markets round the world.

With a foreword by Jim Haywood, environment director of the UK’s Business in the Community, the book boasts an impressive roster of ‘thinkers’ – those who have set the agenda – and ‘doers’ – those business people, particularly running large companies, who have made this their mission long before it ever became fashionable.

“What shines through all these conversations is the humanity of every one of this disparate group of people.  Looking at what set them on the paths they chose throws up some interesting and at times moving answers.  Each, in his or her own way, is trying to make this world a better place to live.”

- From Conversations with Green Gurus, by Laura Mazur and Louella Miles

The Conversations range widely and contain a rich variety of perspectives along with the Gurus’ thoughts on where countries, religion, individuals and particular companies have taken the right – or wrong – way in their search for environmental sustainability. It questions the economic viability of present and possible future solutions and, indeed, what are the likely societal costs and benefits.

Conversations with Green Gurus is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk now.

Save the Date: Timberland Talks About Carbon Neutrality

A year ago, Timberland started hosting quarterly calls with a diverse group of stakeholders to focus on key environmental and social issues for our company and our industry.  These calls have proven to be a good way for us to share information about what we’re doing to be a more sustainable organization, and provide valuable feedback which helps shape our efforts going forward.

The topic for our next call is corporate climate strategies — including Timberland’s progress towards our 2010 carbon neutral goal and the role offsets will play in meeting that goal.  Won’t you join us?

Date / Time: April 20, 2009 (11 am – 12:30 pm ET)

Featured speakers:
Jeff Swartz, CEO of Timberland
Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres

Click here to register (deadline April 16)

All calls are recorded and posted online at www.timberland.com and, we aim to continue these conversations online after the call at www.timberland.justmeans.com.

Can’t listen in but want to share your questions or thoughts on the subject?  Comments are welcome here.