On April 8, The Timberland Company announced it had reduced its greenhouse (GHG) gas emissions by 36% in 2009 over its 2006 baseline figures. Claiming it is not content with this decrease, Timberland, led by its CEO Jeff Swartz, stated that the outdoor footwear and apparel company will reach a 50% reduction by the end of this year.
Most of Timberland’s decrease in total GHG emissions comes from improving the operations of its facilities and stores, with a reduction of employee business travel contributing, as well. Timberland is arguably the first retail chain to achieve LEED Retail certification for its new mall-based stores, and has installed LED lights at most of its retail outlets in North America. The company’s Ontario, Calif., distribution center uses mostly solar power, while its European regional headquarters in the Netherlands derives 100% of its energy needs from wind.
Meanwhile, Timberland encourages its employees to use Web and video conferencing whenever possible. The documentation Timberland offers on its site and third-party web sites is impressive; but like many companies with a complex supply chain, the company has a long road to ameliorating the carbon footprint of its suppliers–a tall task because Timberland has little control over its suppliers’ operations.
One tactic Timberland has adopted in cajoling its suppliers to reduce their carbon footprint is through its Green Index program. Using software systems like the carbon-calculating GaBi program, suppliers–and customers–can get an idea of how much carbon is produced during the stages of their shoes’ production. Timberland is also phasing out PVCs (polyvinyl chloride) from its shoes, and is working on eliminating toxic solvents from its manufacturing, too. The more PVCs and solvents are used in a shoe, the more points get added to an item’s score. Finally, the company evaluates the amount of recycled, organic, and renewable materials used in making a product.
So given the challenge Timberland faces, its efforts to educate its consumers while instilling a sense of sustainability within its work culture are impressive. Just being able to make a huge dent in its energy consumption (and not by buying renewable energy credits, or, “cheating”) pulls me a little closer to buying a Timberland product the next time I need a new pair of hiking shoes.