Timberland Addresses Climate Change at International Scientific Conference

(3BL Media and Just Means)- Last week in Paris, the International Scientific Conference, “Our Common Future under Climate Change,” brought together social enterprises, government agencies and the scientific community. Presented in partnership with the French government and Project Labeled COP21, as well as many other European sponsors such as Future Earth, UNESCO, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the United Nations Foundation, the purpose of the conference was solutions-focused.  Building on the results of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, the conference addressed key issues concerning climate change in the broader context of global change; solutions were proposed for both mitigation and adaptation issues.

Representing the social enterprise movement, Timberland’s Sustainability Director, Colleen Vien, joined industry leaders on a panel led by Eileen McNeely of Harvard School of Public Health to discuss what businesses can do as “good actors” to cut their environmental footprint. According to Vien, businesses need to ask how they can make smarter choices and assess what they are doing to mitigate or offset their impact.

“For Timberland, this means minimizing our impact at every touch point: from the way we build our stores and design our products, to the materials and resources we use, to the way we analyze the life cycle of our products,” says Vien.

Making the effort to join the cross-sector conversation is crucial for businesses to stay accountable to the science and regulatory strategies of climate change. Timberland purposefully budgets for conferences like “Our Common Future under Climate Change” because they know the expertise and critiques of climate change leaders are essential to make the most effective changes. NGOs, academics, issue experts, investors, and advocacy organizations inform them in their comprehensive CSR and climate change strategies. Timberland’s goal is to reduce their global energy demand by two percent year over year while also increasing their use of renewable energy two percent year over year.

“Our partners and critics offer expertise on climate science, peer benchmarking, and best practices for reducing emissions. They also provide feedback and issue challenges to help us set targets and credibly invest in reducing our footprint and increasing our positive impacts,” says Vien.

However, Timberland isn’t buying it that businesses are the only players responsible for causing climate change or the only stakeholders responsible to clean up the mess we’ve created. Vien says that with a little help from the public sector, the private sector could more actively scale their progress; incentives, better education and funding are crucial.

“Businesses need better and more actionable information on climate change impacts. Climate change data with its complexity and levels of long-term uncertainty can be difficult for businesses to incorporate into their business plans. Additionally, while more and more companies are investing in making their operations less resource intensive, many small and medium enterprises are unable to do so due to lack of resources or expertise. There’s great opportunity here for the public sector to work proactively with businesses to plan and secure funds that are directed for action,” says Vien.

Examples of Timberland’s cross-sector partnership is demonstrated in the Timberland and Omni United tire collaboration. Automobile tires are specifically designed to be recycled at end of their life on the road into Timberland outsoles. This partnership makes sense. It’s authentic and ties into their brand. What I love most about Timberland is how they’ve owned environmental responsibility as part of their overall brand. After all, their vision is to be the largest, most sustainable outdoor lifestyle brand on Earth. Vien says they have an unwavering responsibility to care for the environment. And doing good and doing well, go hand-in-hand; neither profit nor positive impact need to be sacrificed as a result of one another.

“The more successful you are, the more good you can do.  And the more good you do, the more people want to do business with you. Every day, we seek new ways to improve our products, strengthen our relationships with stakeholders, and enhance the communities where we live and work. It means taking actions that enable us to be stewards of the earth. Sometimes it’s a small measure of goodness, like restoring a small green space in our local community.  Other times it’s a revolutionary breakthrough in product technology, perhaps finding a more sustainable way to craft our shoes.  At the end of the day, we seek to demonstrate a model of commerce and justice – of superior returns to shareholders, achieved sustainably, with respect to society and the environment,” says Vien.

Learn more about the vision of the Our Common Future under Climate Change conference. Read the IPCC 5th Assessment Report (AR5). Check out Timberland and Tires.  Read about how Timberland planted trees in Haiti and as a result, put children in school.