Timberland 'Walks the Walk'

Shoemaker Revamps Manufacturing Process, Increases Use of Sustainable Materials and Promotes Global Servapalooza Volunteering

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COLUMBUS, Ohio ( -- "What kind of footprint will you leave?" is the way Timberland has been getting the dialogue going with consumers.
Using a nutrition-label format, Timberland ads explain a product's environmental impact.
Using a nutrition-label format, Timberland ads explain a product's environmental impact.

On every shoebox of footwear the marketer sells in 30,000 retail stores worldwide, it discloses via a label modeled after the ubiquitous nutrition label on food the ecological footprint created by the manufacture and distribution of its products.

The idea was to pin down a number -- current energy use is about 2.6 kilowatt-hours per pair of shoes -- and then get it lower every year by adopting the use of wind or solar power; Timberland says the giant solar array at its Ontario, Calif., center is cutting 480,000 pounds of carbon emissions.

Timberland is taking its "Footprint" marketing message and challenging its footwear competitors to borrow its environmental strategy. Copy away.

'Trying to do better'
"We believe if everyone was adopting this it would have more of an impact on the environment," says Theresa Palermo, senior manager-marketing. "It's about recognizing faults and trying to do better."

Ms. Palermo, who's part of a marketing team including Carol Yang, VP-global marketing, says industrywide discussions have proved fruitful." The interest level has been very promising," she adds.

The next evolution in full-disclosure packaging will feature a Green Index hangtag -- a selected launch on just five shoes providing product-specific ratings on environmental factors such as climate-change impact, chemicals used and the amount of sustainable or organic materials used.

Through the "Footprint" campaign, the company says it's learned things such as how to identify less carbon-intensive materials in manufacturing processes. The marketer is targeting 2010 to become carbon neutral and is choosing low-impact materials in its stores. The "Footprint" initiative was driven by Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz, but the marketing department took up the cause as a way to engage consumers.

"You're starting to see a consumer who is much more engaged in a values dialogue," Ms. Palermo says. "Consumers expect this more. They are looking for brands to be stewards of the environment. It's something we believe in as a core attribute."

For Earth Day this year, nearly 2,500 employees served at more than 170 projects in 25 countries. They in turn helped recruit an additional 7,000 volunteers to aid projects such as tree plantings and clearing parkways. Timberland in September celebrates its 10th annual Global Servapalooza event, in which it will continue its volunteer outreach projects.

Ms. Palermo joined Timberland two years ago after working in marketing at Polaroid Corp. Since then, she has spent more than 80 hours on the clock for Timberland doing everything from building houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina to helping a local, nonprofit domestic-violence center write a marketing plan, as part of the company's public-service outreach program. "It's the whole notion of 'walk the walk, '" she says.

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