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SERVICE

Engaging Communities
Once a modest family business, Timberland has grown into a fairly big company—and we owe a lot of our success to the people and places around the world where we set up shop. That’s why engaging citizens, employees, and consumers through community service has always been a priority for us.

 

 

 

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One million hours adds up to a lot of time, namely 41,667 days or 114 years. If you had one million hours, you could build the Hoover Dam 22 times, run the world’s fastest marathon 487,804 times, or read 40.3 million emails. You could also spend that time serving in your community just like Timberland employees worldwide have done over the past 22 years.

Since 1992, Timberland has provided employees with paid time to serve in their communities through the company’s award winning Path of Service™ program. Employees worldwide receive up to 40 paid community service hours each year and serve at a range of company sponsored and individual projects. To help employees use their service hours, Timberland organizes two global service events each year: Earth Day in April and Serv-a-palooza in the Fall. For both events, employees pull on their boots to make a difference in communities where they live and work.

While serving at Timberland’s 16th annual Earth Day events this year in more than 100 locations in over 19 countries, Timberland employees served their one millionth hour. “As an outdoor brand − our logo is a tree, after all − protecting the environment is very important to Timberland. Couple that with our 22-year history of community service, and you can see why the weeks surrounding Earth Day mark the perfect time for us to pull on our boots and make a difference,” said Atlanta McIlwraith, senior manager of Community Engagement for Timberland. “This year is especially exciting as we closed in on our one millionth service hour. We are deeply grateful to the employees and partners who have served with us along the way. We look forward to the next million hours, and the continued positive impact we can have worldwide.”

At Timberland’s Earth Day events worldwide, some 30,000 hours of service were performed by 5,000+ employee and guest volunteers in April and May. Employee volunteers planted trees in the Netherlands and the UK; created gardens, restored trails, and removed invasive species in Switzerland; cleaned the beach, monitored water quality, and harvested saplings in Singapore and Malaysia; cleaned gardens and parks in Hong Kong and the Dominican Republic; and did much more. At Timberland headquarters in Stratham, NH over 300 employees and 50 guests served at seven environmentally focused projects in three different states. Stratham’s Earth Day event was preceded by a party the day before to celebrate the 1,000,000 hours milestone.

“Timberland’s commitment to volunteerism has been a huge inspiration to me personally since joining the brand in 2011,” said Patrik Frisk, coalition president, Outdoor Americas, VF Corporation and president of Timberland. “Timberland’s rich history of sustainability is evident in so many things the brand does, from eco conscious product innovation to sustainable sourcing. But there’s something very powerful about the positive impacts that come about – for employees as well as the community — from hands-on service. One million hours is a milestone to be proud of. It is my hope that this vigorous celebration will inspire companies and individuals around the globe to take action in their own communities.”

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Look at an aerial view of Hispaniola—the two-nation island that contains the Dominican Republic and Haiti—and the border between the countries is startlingly obvious. On the Dominican side, lush, green forests carpet the hills. On the Haitian side, a barren, brown landscape stretches into the distance. With only 2.2% of its forests remaining, Haiti was a perfect candidate for Timberland’s ambitious tree-planting initiative.

In 2010 Timberland set a global goal of planting 5 million trees by 2015. Timberland’s tree planting project in Haiti supports this goal, specifically aiming to create a self-sustaining agro-forestry model that will result in agricultural improvement, environmental restoration, and improved wellbeing for participating farmers.

“We saw a strong need for restoring the environment in Haiti,” says Margaret Morey-Reuner, Timberland’s senior manager of global brand value marketing. “We wanted to help reverse the pattern of deforestation in a sustainable manner. Our goal was to provide the seed funding for a network of nurseries that would be self-sustaining in 36 to 48 months.”

To accomplish this, Timberland partnered with Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA), an organization dedicated to improving lives in Haiti through a combination of forestry and agriculture. According to SFA president Hugh Locke, Timberland’s approach is somewhat unique.

“With Timberland, we’ve found a true partner rather than just a source of funding,” Locke says. “They’re committed to developing the capacity of the farmers and come up with a new approach that would ultimately be self-managed and self-funded.”

Under the Timberland/SFA initiative, farmers grow trees in exchange for better crop seeds, tools, and training. The farmers’ ultimate reward is increased revenue as a result of the sale of excess trees and higher crop yields—as well as the benefit of using the newly planted trees as “living fences” for farmers to protect their land without investing in poles and fencing to maintain them.

With Timberland’s support, SFA oversees the program in conjunction with agronomist Timote George, the former Haiti country director of an organization called Trees for the Future. They chose the area surrounding the city of Gonaïves for a pilot project, which had been devastated by floods in 2008. Success depends on combining agriculture and forestry in a discipline known as agroforestry. That means motivating 2,000 local smallholder farmers to plant and grow the trees.

“From day one, we were rigorously disciplined about the process,” says Locke. That meant allowing the farmers themselves to make all the decisions, from selecting the seed to setting prices. “We had agronomists available to help, but the farmers themselves were the agents in the process,” says Locke.

Three years into the project, Morey-Reuner reports that crop yields are up 40-50% . Due to the crop revenues generated, the farmers are now able to send their children to school and purchase livestock—something they couldn’t afford before. Timberland and SFA are planning a similar cooperative venture in northern Haiti, beginning in July 2013.

As Timberland’s initial pilot in Gonaives begins to deliver sustainable results, its success signals an opportunity to expand the program to other countries. We’re busy planting trees all over the world, on almost every continent where environmental restoration is in need. “Just like the people are ready for change, the environment is ready for change,” says Mark Newton, Timberland’s vice president of corporate social responsibility. “Given a little bit of incentive, local partners, and community engagement, you can do amazing things.”

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Twenty years ago, Timberland created our Path of Service program—a monumental moment that marked the beginning of a rich tradition of service. When the Path of Service program debuted on September 18, 1992, it offered employees up to 16 hours of paid time each year to engage in community service—an unconventional idea at the time. In 1995, the number of paid hours available to employees was raised to 40 hours a year, and by the late 1990s, the company formalized two annual service events designed to make it easy for employees to serve.

In 1997, the company began organizing an annual day of service around Earth Day, in recognition of Timberland as an outdoor brand. The following year, we started a tradition called Serv-a-palooza, Timberland’s own annual celebration of community service.

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary, we put our values into action at events around the world, thanks to our team of Global Stewards—passionate employees who volunteer above and beyond their regular job responsibilities to serve as ambassadors of corporate social responsibility. Here are some of the highlights that span the globe:

China: Global Steward Vincent He organized a team that painted a wall in a primary school classroom, while another team treated 60 kindergarteners to an outing in a local park. Many of the children had never been to a park before.

Italy: Global Steward Francesca Vitale organized a two-day service trip for three teams of employees to Cinque Terre on Palmaria Island. Each team worked on different projects, including cleaning beaches, renovating benches along the paths, and repainting an old military fortress.

Japan: Global Steward Shiho Hirasawa’s team spread its celebration across the year, arranging monthly service events from May through November.

Spain: Global Steward Lorena Ibáñez and her teams provided gardening services at a retirement home and prepared a special lunch for students at a sailing school for the disabled.

Taiwan: With the support of Global Steward Marty Shen, Taiwan launched a program that rewards consumers for engaging with Timberland in service—a concept that’s spread to other Timberland locations around the world.

USA: Near our Stratham, New Hampshire global headquarters, community engagement manager Brianne Wood coordinated more than 350 volunteers in this year’s Serv-a-Palooza in three locations. The team helped 25 non-profit organizations by constructing outdoor furniture, creating and restoring over three miles of trails, and knitting winter hats and mittens.

But it doesn’t end with our employees. Our service events have now grown to include Timberland vendors, distributors, supplier factories, consumers, community members, and friends and family. Organizations as diverse as the Hong Chi School in Hong Kong, which serves those with intellectual disabilities; Legambiente, an Italian environmental organization; and the Seacoast Science Center of Rye, New Hampshire, an educational facility near Timberland’s headquarters, all join us in the effort to make a difference in the world.

We are also fortunate that our new parent company, VF Corporation, supports Timberland’s values-driven brand and mission to equip people to make a difference in the communities where they live and work. We look forward to partnering with VF’s Outdoor & Action Sports Coalition to grow our commitment to service beyond our own corporate walls.

As Atlanta McIlwraith, senior manager of community engagement for Timberland, puts it, “What’s so powerful about our service program is the many ripples it creates. As we send people to service sites, their direct impact ripples out to other organizations and the people they serve. Our belief is that when each employee has a service experience, it helps them become more engaged in their own community and on their own time. We hope this year’s 20th anniversary has re-energized our army of service warriors to continue to grow Timberland’s level of service.”

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