Global outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland prides itself on its commitment to innovate and operate in an accountable and responsible manner — in terms of its products, the communities in which it operates, and the outdoors. As part of this commitment, the company today announced the implementation of its rigorous environmental standard — the Timberland Environmental Product Standard (TEPS) — across all of its product categories, beginning with its Spring 2016 collection.
What began in 2007 with a more conscious approach to materials used in its Earthkeepers™ collection — each product is comprised of at least one material containing recycled, organic or renewable content — has expanded into an ambitious commitment to implement the approach across every touchpoint of Timberland’s product category mix.
“Over the years, our Earthkeepers [collection] became so successful, design teams across multiple categories were understanding the value — the actual cost savings to be had, leveraging the purchasing power from other product categories, or the value of the marketing,” Timberland’s director of sustainability, Colleen Vien, said in a recent interview. “So it really became obvious that we could — and should — be taking that same approach across any product that has a tree [Timberland logo] on it; it should stand for environmentally preferred materials when you pick up a Timberland product.
“This will be the first year we’ve incorporated EPS across all of our product categories — footwear, apparel, men’s, women’s, kids, as well as licensed goods,” Vien added. “It’s been in process for over a year now, so we’re really excited to have the products finally hitting the shelves.”
Bold commitments for the future
Today, Timberland also unveiled its 2015 CSR results, and announced aggressive 2020 targets, as well as progress in all three pillar areas — product, community, and outdoors — and challenges particular to improving products. Highlights include:
- 80 percent of Timberland employees engage in community service, for a total of 1.5 million cumulative hours served, via the company’s Path of ServiceTM program.
- More than 73,000 volunteer hours were served through various environmental and social projects — that’s enough time to walk around the world 8.7 times.
- Plant 10 million trees (cumulatively, since 2001).
- Refocus brand on creating and restoring urban outdoor spaces (initiative to be announced this Spring).
- 50 percent of energy in Timberland-operated facilities comes from renewable sources such as on-site wind and solar power and renewable energy credits.
- More than 1.4 million trees were planted in 2015 – primarily in the Dominican Republic, China and Haiti. Since 2001, Timberland has supported the planting of more than 8.7 million trees around the globe.
2020 goals (on top of meeting TEPS criteria):
- 100 percent of footwear includes at least one material containing recycled, organic or renewable (ROR) content.
- 100 percent of footwear and outerwear leather is sourced from tanneries that have earned a Gold or Silver rating from the Leather Working Group for following environmental best practices.
- 100 percent of footwear and apparel is PVC-free.
- 100 percent of apparel cotton comes from organic, US-origin or Better Cotton Initiative–certified sources.
- 84 percent of Timberland® footwear included at least one material containing renewable, organic or recycled content, up from 72 percent in 2014.
- One million pounds of recycled PET was incorporated into Timberland® footwear in 2015 alone – the equivalent of 47 million plastic water bottles. Since 2009, Timberland has given the equivalent of 233 million plastic water bottles new life in its footwear.
- Timberland used 834,000 pounds of recycled rubber in its footwear in 2015 – equivalent to the average weight of 10 semi trucks. Since 2009, the brand has produced 25.2 million pairs of footwear made with outsoles containing at least 34 percent recycled rubber.
- While the company is working hard to be PVC-free across all footwear and apparel, 2015 results came in relatively flat to 2014, at 98 percent. Timberland continues to work on PVC-free material substitution in its industrial PRO line, and to review materials and manufacturing equipment updates to allow for further PVC reduction to occur in pursuit of being 100 percent PVC-free by 2020.
- Use of organic cotton in apparel declined slightly, from 19 percent in 2014 to 18 percent in 2015, primarily due to cost constraints. Timberland has set new strategies in place to prioritize the use of more responsibly grown cotton in its apparel, with a goal of 100 percent of apparel cotton coming from organic, US-origin or Better Cotton Initiative-certified sources by 2020.
Regarding new strategies aimed at meeting the cotton goal, Vien said while the company still has an internal commitment to eventually achieve 100 percent organic cotton, the new 2020 goal has it temporarily widening its net in its ongoing search for “better cotton.”
“Rather than focusing on an all-or-nothing strategy for organic we wanted to try and influence those markets [that are doing] better than conventional,” she said. “We’re trying to recognize and incent better, more responsible cotton growing.”
Speaking of reducing impact on the materials front, Timberland has broadened its foray into alternative materials by partnering with Thread, the Pittsburgh-based startup creating upcycled fabric from plastic waste (as well as jobs for locals) in Haiti and Honduras. Beginning in Spring 2017, a variety of Timberland’s men’s, women’s and kids footwear styles, along with backpacks and handbags, will feature Thread fabric.
“This partnership with Thread I love because it brings in more of the social and economic story, as well,” Vien said. “It goes hand in hand very nicely with our efforts to date in terms of tree-planting in Haiti, so they complement each other quite well.”
In the meantime, Timberland will have its hands full making sure all of its products meet the TEPS criteria. While Vien said more checks and balances will be needed to make sure production of its licensed products (ex: kids’ apparel in Europe, eyeglasses, watches, etc) — which is done by third parties — is in accordance, the first order of business will be working with in-house materials teams to develop a roadmap for achieving 100 percent TEPS-compliant elements in all of its products by 2020.