Climate change can have a disastrous effect on our planet, and unless something is done about it—fast—life on Earth as we know it will be gone. So, it’s a good thing world governments are stepping up to lead the effort to reduce emissions, right?
According to Jeff Swartz, former President & CEO of Timberland, “Too many politicians that have been entrusted to lead, to put the best interests of their states and their constituents first, instead are doing predictably nothing to fulfill their duties or address any interest that isn’t their own, or that of their party.”
Hope for new public policy regarding climate change rose in December 2009, when representatives from 192 countries around the world gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark, to brainstorm about solutions to the crisis. “We know how to work across nation-state boundaries, and we confront the question of global practice every single day,” Jeff explains. “Business leaders that can navigate the global business market elegantly and effectively are not just good CEOs, they’re a valuable and as yet untapped resource for the climate discussions.”
Unfortunately, amid so many conflicting interests and ideas, the conference was universally judged a failure. “Reaching a global accord on climate change is obviously more complex than making boots, and tougher than selling them,” Jeff says.
Yet, Timberland alone has reduced its carbon emissions by 36% from 2006 to 2010 (for our owned and operated footprint and employee travel). We’ve done this by lowering costs, making business more profitable and more sustainable—proving that commerce and justice are not mutually exclusive, but rather good business practice.
So is collaboration. We believe that to create solid, sustainable change, brands must work together to share ideas and best practices. For example, Timberland is a member of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), which advocates a domestic climate policy. At the heart of their stance is the transition to a low-carbon economy which will create new jobs and stimulate economic growth through the deployment of clean alternative technologies.
BICEP’s members include consumer-facing, for-profit brands that are willing to take the aggressive action to reduce carbon emissions. Like leaders at Timberland, executives of these companies believe that the time has come to start purposefully incorporating energy efficiency, clean technology, and renewable energy into their planning and operations.
And close to our NH headquarters, Timberland is an active member of Conservation New Hampshire Business (CNHB), whose members also include Stonyfield Yogurt and other New Hampshire companies. CNHB works on the state level to bring the business case for environmental and energy issues to the attention of legislators and help preserve and grow state policies that reduce climate impact and encourage conservation of the state’s natural resources.
Jeff Swartz summarizes the situation this way: “Policymakers keep talking, and we keep cutting, saving money, building more sustainable products. Our approach wasn’t mandated or designed by committee; it was the result of a sound business model coupled with passion for the outdoors and desire to preserve our business. It’s not nuclear power plant science, it’s just good boot-making business.”