The announcement earlier this month that VF Corp will acquire Timberland for about US$2 billion raised many questions within the corporate social responsibility (CSR) world. Timberland is a leader in CSR reporting and has a strong track record of pushing the envelope when it comes to issues affecting people and the planet. Would joining a family of brands that includes John Varvatos, Vans, and Lee have an impact on Timberland’s sustainability efforts? Or could Timberland serve as a catalyst for spurring increased CSR initiatives throughout VF, a company that earned US$7.7 billion last year?
Regardless of what the future may hold, Timberland continues business as usual. Yesterday the company created a new executive position, vice president of corporate social responsibility, and hired Dell veteran Mark Newton to fill those new shoes.
During his eight years at Dell, Newton led several programs including those related to global policy development and especially, stakeholder engagement initiatives. His departure from Dell earlier this year disappointed those who were complimentary about Dell’s progress on environmental and social issues.
The fit is a strong one, and Newton should be a strong anchor while Timberland integrates with the VF family of brands. Companies would be wise to follow the outdoor apparel company’s Voices of Challenge Forum, where sustainability thought leaders share their ideas on having to do with energy, product stewardship, employee engagement, and community service. To that end, Timberland was among the first companies to not only go beyond standard CSR reporting, but to hold stakeholder engagement calls on a regular basis.
Timberland’s organizational structure also lands them ahead of the CSR curve. Newton will report to Timberland CFO Carrie Teffner. Expect more companies to follow this model as organizations realize that CSR has financial and measurable impacts.
A chemistry PhD, Newton has also led environmental technology programs at Apple and Motorola, and sits on the boards of Clean Production Action and Carbonfund.org.