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Interview: Beth Holzman of Timberland Talks CSR

Raz Godelnik
| Thursday May 3rd, 2012 | 0 Comments

Timberland has established itself as a leader in CSR reporting, following steps they have taken over the years such as moving to quarterly reporting or introducing a new CSR portal. This leadership, accompanied with ambitious CSR goals helps Timberland to become a sustainable and successful business, but also generates higher expectations from every new CSR report the company releases. The release of Timberland’s annual CSR report for 2011 a couple of weeks ago was no different. Can Timberland meet its bold 2015 CSR goals? Does it continue to show real progress and demonstrate a high level of transparency, even after the company was purchased by VF?

I asked Beth Holzman, Senior Manager of CSR Strategy and Reporting at Timberland to help us figure out the new report.

Triple Pundit: What do you see as your main CSR achievement in 2011?

Beth Holzman: We are proud of the fact that we beat our employee engagement goals. Timberland’s Path of ServiceTM program demonstrates our leadership connecting employees to our communities, and this achievement was a great feat given that this was a year of transition (to being part of VF Corp) – Timberland’s culture and values are what make our company unique, and community engagement is the most tangible way that employees interact with our corporate responsibility programs.

3p: You didn’t meet your 2011 climate target, but as you mention you still had a positive achievement in a year of strong business growth. However, this target refers only to 4 percent of your total emissions. Can you elaborate on your progress regarding the other 96 percent of your carbon footprint?

BH: Our carbon footprint measures emissions associated with Timberland’s owned and operated facilities and employee air travel. This covers Scope 1 and 2 emissions, as well as partial Scope 3 according to the WRI/ WBCSD GHG Protocol (which is standard for most corporate carbon accounting). And yes, this covers 4% of all emissions associated with Timberland’s business.

The other 96% is made up of emissions embedded in our raw materials (71%), product transportation (inbound emissions only, which covers 16%; there is not yet a standard for outbound emissions); and product manufacturing (9%). We know from our lifecycle analysis that reducing the number of materials and choosing environmentally-conscious materials will help drive down the overall emissions embedded in our raw materials. That’s why we’ve developed the Green Index® – a tool to inform our designers and developers of the environmental impact of materials choices as they are creating our footwear; the Green Index® is also a consumer empowerment tool, as we’re working to put a Green Index® score on all of our footwear by the end of 2012 so as to educate and inform consumers about responsible purchasing decisions.

We are also working across our industry to standardize environmental metrics through the Outdoor Industry Association’s Eco Index and Sustainable Apparel Coalition, two groups where Timberland is a founding member.

3p: You write in your report that only 5 percent of your product line is Green Index scored. Your target for 2012 is to reach 100 percent – is it doable?

BH: We do believe this is doable. In 2010 we had a higher percentage of our line scored – but in 2011 we met data collection challenges within our Product Lifecycle Management system. We are now in the process of bringing our scoring system to scale across footwear products, and do expect to meet our goal to have 100% of our footwear line scored by end of 2012.

3p: What feedback do you receive from your customers on the Green Index?

BH: Our Green Index® hasn’t garnered huge response from the consumer population – yet.  Until there’s an agreed upon, industry standard metric for rating the environmental impact of a product or products, it’s going to be difficult for consumers to use it in a meaningful way to inform their purchasing decisions.  Right now, for example, they’re only able to compare Timberland’s footwear with a Green Index® score to other Timberland footwear that has a Green Index® score.

3p: You met your 2011 goal to source 15 percent of energy from renewable sources, yet you still have a challenging target ahead of you - increasing it to 30 percent by 2015. How do you plan to do it?

BH: We’ll need to be creative – as clean energy is not readily available all locations that we source from. One example is our work to purchase renewable energy in bulk, which was implemented in the UK in 2011 and contributed to meeting our target. By consolidating our utility providers, we are able to reduce utility costs and we’ll be looking to consolidate like this in other regions in the years to come. We also will continue to prioritize energy efficiency in all of our facilities worldwide, and will be rolling out store retrofits in our global retail program – much like the success we accomplished in our North American retail stores in years past.

3p: Finally, how is VF’s purchase of Timberland influencing your CSR strategy and goals?

BH: Timberland has a long-standing commitment to corporate responsibility, and that has not changed as a result of our acquisition by VF. Timberland is excited to share our experience and leading social and environmental performance improvements within the VF family of brands as a way to scale our impact. We have always said that we cannot create positive, lasting, sustainable change as one brand, alone. That’s why we are so committed to cross-industry engagements like our participation in the OIA, SAC, and Leather Working Group (for example). We are enthusiastic that our passion for collaboration will lead to stronger programs and results at Timberland and at VF.

[Image credit: Timberland]

Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry in the digital age. He is an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Department of Business Administration, CUNY and the New School, teaching courses in green business and new product development.


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