Inside Timberland’s Plan to Make Shoes from Entirely Renewable Materials by 2020

As an eco-minded innovation leader, Timberland is elevating its corporate social responsibility initiatives, including using more sustainable materials, like recycled PET and organic cotton, in its clothing and footwear.

The outdoor brand’s fourth quarter 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility performance report showed steady progress on reaching its 2020 sustainability objectives. Timberland’s goals fall into three distinct pillars: making products responsibly, protecting and enhancing the outdoors and serving communities.

“We’re proud to celebrate the progress we’ve made in the past year, especially our efforts to incorporate more sustainable cotton in our apparel. But at Timberland we have a commitment to sustainability and responsibility that goes well beyond the products we make,” Colleen Vien, Timberland’s director of sustainability, said. “In our view, responsibility also means protecting and enhancing the outdoors, and the communities around the world where we live, work and explore.”

Responsible products and processes

Timberland, a VF Corp. brand, set a goal to have 100 percent of the cotton used in its apparel to come from organic, U.S. origin or sources certified by leading environmental authorities, including Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), by 2020. For the fourth quarter, the brand made strides with this goal, since 82 percent of cotton used in its apparel was either organic (30 percent), BCI certified (46 percent) or of U.S. origin (6 percent), up from 69 percent in fourth quarter of 2016. In 2017, Timberland used 81 percent sustainable cotton in its apparel products compared to 58 percent for 2016’s year-end results.

By 2020, Timberland wants to have all boots, shoes and sandals contain renewable materials. Last year, the brand upgraded its reporting methods on using recycled, organic or renewable (ROR) content materials. Last year, Timberland incorporated more than 890,000 pounds of recycled polyester, or PET, in its footwear and significant materials, with at least 10 percent ROR content used in 67 percent of the shoes it shipped.

Timberland is also working to remove Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and per-fluorinated compounds (PFCs) from its supply chain. In 2017, the brand set a goal of completely removing PFCs from durable water repellents (DWRs) used in its footwear products by 2020. Timberland said it has made progress to eliminate these potentially hazardous substances from its top volume waterproof footwear leathers and is seeking material alternatives for its other footwear products. Last year, Timberland reported that 91 percent of its footwear DWRs did not contain PFCs.

Fortifying the environment

Timberland has set robust environmental goals for 2020, too, including sourcing at least 50 percent of all energy from renewable resources and planting 10 million trees. In 2016, 32 percent of energy used at Timberland’s facilities came from renewable resources, which was even with its 2015 results. Although Timberland has not yet provided an update on its 2017 renewable energy results, the brand has aligned its environmental targets with VF Corp.’s corporate goal to source 100 percent renewable energy for all owned and operated facilities by 2025.

To promote eco-friendly agricultural practices and increase forestry, Timberland is working to plant more than 10 million trees by 2020. Last year, the brand planted 413,757 trees and to date it has planted more than 9 million. Timberland also works with groups, including the Smallholder Farmers Alliance, to help reforest Haiti by planting more than 800,000 trees and educating the nation’s smallholder farmers on eco-friendly agricultural practices.

Editor’s Note: This story was reported by FN’s sister magazine Sourcing Journal. For more, visit Sourcingjournal.com.

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