Timberland: The Eco Retailer

In 1973, Timberland was the name brand of a waterproof leather boot. Now thanks to programs like Serv-a-palooza and the Green Index, the Boston-headquartered company is vying to be a twenty-first century example for socially responsible corporations around the world.

In 1973, Timberland was the name brand of a waterproof leather boot. Now thanks to programs like Serv-a-palooza and the Green Index, the Boston-headquartered company is vying to be a twenty-first century example for socially responsible corporations around the world.


Everything Timberland aspires to and works towards each day is rooted in a commitment to the core values: humanity, humility, integrity and excellence. The brand applies these values in its approach to CSR – which involves manufacturing products and conducting business in a socially responsible way – anchored with the belief that consumers should ask questions and hold companies accountable for the way they conduct business.


Timberland is changing how it manufactures its products. For example, by using wind energy at its manufacturing facility in the Dominican Republic 20 tons per year of C02 is eliminated. Using solar energy at its Ontario, California plant has lowered dependency on fossil fuels by 60% and eliminates 166 tons per year of CO2. And in the Netherlands, water and wind energy provide 100% of the plant’s energy, eliminating 682 tons per year of C02.

By increasing energy efficiency, buying clean energy, harvesting wind and solar power, purchasing renewable energy credits and planting trees, Timberland’s ultimate goal is to become carbon negative or neutral by 2010.


Launched in fall 2006, Timberland’s ‘Nutritional Label,’ detailing the environmental and community impact of its products, was the first of its kind in the retail industry. The product tag was designed to provide consumers with new information to help them make smarter buying decisions. The label shows where the product was manufactured, how it was produced and its effect on the environment.

This spring, the brand is introducing the Green Index, a measure of the environmental impact of its products. The goal is to provide consumers with an understanding of the ecological footprint that the business creates. The Green Index will measure and report on three key areas:

climate impact (greenhouse gas emissions through production); chemicals used (presence of hazardous substances like PVC, chrome and solvent adhesives)

and finally, resource consumption (use of recycled, organic and renewable materials). The

lower the rating, the better the environmental performance.

The brand considers the index to be a starting point on the path to increased sustainability and transparency. Timberland hopes to influence other like-minded companies to join in developing an industry-wide index for comparing the environmental impact of design choices, as well as to inspire consumers to ask questions and make informed decisions about their purchases.

Currently, footwear boxes are made of 100% recycled, post-consumer waste fibre, with no use of chemical glues and only soy-based inks to print labels. And there is a

call-to-action to consumers; messaging inside the box asks: ‘What kind of footprint will you leave?’


Some examples of company-wide initiatives:

• Employees worldwide are entitled to 40 hours of paid time off each year to serve in their communities through the Path of Service program.

• President/CEO Jeffrey Swartz has implemented a $3,000 cash incentive to encourage employees to purchase hybrid cars.

• After the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Timberland granted employees ‘mini-sabbaticals’ to support on-site recovery, clean up, and other community service initiatives.

Timberland is building a strong reputation as a business that not

only embraces CSR, but defines

the term. Canadian-specific

examples include:

• In 2006, Timberland teamed up with Habitat for Humanity for one of Canada’s largest home building projects in an effort to address hunger and housing in Toronto. Employees spent a full day laying sod and working on finishing touches.

• Now in year nine, every October Timberland employees, vendors, and community partners come together for Serv-a-palooza to refurbish and refresh schools, parks and hospitals in their communities around the world. In 2005, for example, Timberland Canada employees laced up their boots to revive the Charles G. Williams Park in Toronto’s Roncesvalles community. Volunteers painted over graffiti-tagged walls, repaired old benches and tables, and cleaned up the park.

• Over 300 pairs of shoes

were donated to Toronto’s Yonge Street Mission.

Overall results

In September, 159 Serv-a-palooza projects in 32 countries engaged 6,300 volunteers and generated 43,000 hours of service via numerous initiatives, including building and refurbishing homes, community facilities and parks.

This year, for the eighth consecutive time, Timberland has been recognized by CRO magazine (formerly Business Ethics magazine) as a ’100 Best Corporate Citizen’ for its corporate social responsibility efforts. It ranked eighth. For the tenth straight year, it made Fortune Magazine’s ’100 Best Companies to Work For,’ one of only 18 companies that has made the prestigious list every year.

From local initiatives such as improving parks and bringing together business partners and vendors for annual projects, to national initiatives that raise awareness of global challenges, it is clear that Timberland is a change agent.

Kim Warburton, General Electric Canada