Timberland - Innovation of the Year

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Company: Timberland, Stratham, NH
Entry Submitted By: Cone Communications
Company Description: Timberland, a brand of VF Corporation, is a global leader in the design, engineering and marketing of premium- quality footwear, apparel and accessories for consumers who value the outdoors and their time in it. Timberland’s dedication to making quality products is matched by its commitment to “doing well and doing good.”
Nomination Category: Company / Organization Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Innovation of the Year - Consumer Products Industries

Nomination Title: Creating Value and Opportunity through Recycling with Timberland X Thread

Tell the story about this nominated innovation since January 1, 2016 (up to 650 words). Describe how the innovation was discovered, developed, refined and/or deployed. Provide an assessment of how the innovation has impacted or will impact your organization, your industry, markets or society.

Timberland is fueled by a commitment to innovate and operate its business in an accountable, responsible and sustainable way – not only in terms of environmental stewardship, but also social justice. This commitment comes to life within three core CSR pillars: to make products responsibly; to protect and preserve the outdoors; and to support the communities around the globe where Timberland employees live, work and explore.

When it comes to product, Timberland is constantly seeking new and innovative ways to amplify its sustainability initiatives across all categories, and identify new strategies to reduce its environmental footprint throughout the supply chain. This includes sourcing from gold- and silver-rated tanneries (as rated by the Leather Working Group) and steadily increasing the brand’s use of recycled, organic and renewable (ROR) materials. Since 2009, Timberland has given the equivalent of 233 million plastic water bottles new life in footwear. In 2015 alone, the brand used one million pounds of recycled PET in Timberland footwear – that’s the equivalent of 47 million plastic water bottles.

As a way to take its use of ROR materials to the next level, in 2016 Timberland announced a partnership with Thread, a Certified B Corporation that turns plastic bottles into "the most responsible fabric on the planet.” Timberland was eager to partner with Thread because the partnership looks beyond the environmental value of recycled plastic bottles and focuses on responsibility, transparency and creating social value. Building community has always been at the heart of Timberland and Thread, so any time there is an opportunity to create both environmental and social value, that’s a big win. This is far more than a supplier relationship between Timberland and Thread – it can serve as a model for others hoping to form strategic partnerships, especially for small socially-focused organizations looking to scale with the help of large corporations.

This spring, Timberland is unveiling its first collection developed with Thread Ground to GoodTM fabric that is not only harvested from plastic bottles littering the streets and landfills of Haiti, but it creates dignified jobs and supports income opportunities. The new line of footwear, bags and t-shirts proves that style and sustainability can go hand-in-hand without sacrificing one for the other. The program, which is the first time a major brand has launched a collection with Thread, is delivering good with every fiber – in the form of new jobs, cleaner communities and stylish products that last. Timberland’s purchase of 76,528 yards of Thread fabric for this line (rather than 100 percent cotton) led to 765,280 plastic bottles recycled, 30,521,203 gallons of water saved and 15,305 pounds of pesticide saved.

The process of going from “bottle to boot” begins in Haiti, where more than 1,300 locals collect the plastic bottles that are ultimately developed into Thread fabric. The collectors sell these bottles to 50 Haitian-owned and operated collection centers. The center owners and individual collectors transport and sell the sorted plastic to Haiti Recycling and Environmental Cleaning Solutions S.A. in Port-au-Prince. At Haiti Recycling, the production line washes and shreds the bottles into raw material called “flake,” which is then sent to U.S.-based factories that melt and shape the flake into a fiber that is woven into fabric. Timberland purchases the high-quality fabric and uses it to create durable bags and boots – culminating in the Timberland X Thread collection. It’s one thing to recycle, but it’s another to have a lasting impact through beautiful products.

Each yard of Thread fabric is traced and tracked at every step of its journey, from bottle collection to fabric creation and to the delivery of the fabric bolt to the manufacturer. This unprecedented transparency will allow Timberland consumers to learn about the people, the vibrant stories and the impact metrics behind each boot, shoe or bag they purchase, so they can know they are making a difference while also receiving the premium quality they expect from Timberland.

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to ten (10) chief characteristics or benefits of the nominated innovation.

Timberland’s purchase of 76,528 yards of Thread fabric (versus products made with 100 percent conventional cotton) leads to impressive impacts that only continue to grow:

-765,280 bottles recycled.
-30,521,203 gallons of water saved.
-15,305 pounds of pesticide saved.
-77 income opportunities created in Haiti.
-$2,295 in revenue generated for Haitian bottle collectors and collection centers.
-$14,540 in revenue generated for Haitian recyclers.

The Thread network provides jobs and income opportunities for nearly 3,800 people in the developing world, including roughly 1,300 bottle collectors, entrepreneurs and manufacturing employees in Haiti, and another 2,500 in Honduras.