2012 marks the 20th anniversary of Timberland’s Path of Service™ program, which gives employees paid time off to serve in their communities. What’s in store for Timberland this year? Tens of thousands of hours spent giving back to our communities, invitations to consumers and business partners to join us in service, and celebrations of our community service impacts. In other words, business as usual.
As we look ahead to how we’ll continue to make a difference, we’re also taking time to reflect on the journey that brought the Path of Service™ program into its current form. Twenty years ago, the idea of giving employees paid time off to perform community service was unconventional. For many executives, giving back to the community signifies corporate philanthropy. For Timberland, it means sharing our most valuable resource—our employees’ time—to engage and improve communities by building trails, planting trees, creating community gardens and transforming playgrounds.
The inception of service as a core business value began with an introduction from City Year—an education-focused nonprofit that unites young people for a year of full-time service. In 1989, City Year Co-Founders Alan Khazei and Michael Brown approached Timberland with a request for fifty pairs of boots. We granted the request, but Khazei and Brown weren’t finished with us. They invited Timberland to learn more through service and planned Timberland’s first corporate service day. Jeff Swartz, Timberland’s former CEO, was inspired. Never one to back down from a challenge, Swartz introduced the benefit of 16 paid community service hours per year for all employees.
Jackie Mitchell of Timberland’s Human Resources department was there when the idea blossomed and remembers it well: “Jeff, perched high on a fork lift, shared his passion, vision, and dreams for employees to serve in their community and ‘how the private sector can and must be a partner with the public sector to ensure the health of our community.’” On September 18, 1992, our Path of Service™ program was officially born. According to Mitchell, the idea “became a reality when Jeff and a group of employees left work and joined City Year to paint a youth home called Odyssey House in Hampton, New Hampshire.”
Timberland’s community service program has grown from offering up to 16 paid community service hours in 1992, to up to 40 paid hours in 1995—which continues today. Now, Timberland organizes two annual global service events—Earth Day and Serv-a-palooza—to provide company-sponsored opportunities for employees use their hours. Employees are also invited to serve independently or in small groups at projects of their choosing. Additionally, Timberland sponsors a service sabbatical program that grants employees up to six months of paid leave to provide transformational capacity building service to nonprofit organizations.
But it doesn’t end with us. Our service has grown beyond our corporate walls, and our projects now include Timberland vendors, distributors, supplier factories, consumers, community members, and friends and family. As of 2012, Timberland has performed more than 800,000 hours of service around the world. “We’re a relatively small company with a big impact,” notes Atlanta McIlwraith, Timberland’s senior manager of community engagement. “Last year, 40 percent of the volunteers at Timberland-sponsored service events worldwide were business partners, and we hope to increase that percentage in 2012.”
To celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary, we’re gearing up for a special celebration at our fall Serv-a-palooza event, and our Global Stewards are helping us maximize engagement around the globe. For example, our Taiwan and Hong Kong offices are inviting consumers to serve at various Timberland-sponsored service events throughout the year. Consumers in Taiwan who serve 24 hours at Timberland events in 2012 will receive a free Timberland® T-shirt, and those who serve 40 hours will get a free pair of Earthkeepers® boots.
What’s more is that VF, Timberland’s new parent company, stands behind our commitment to service. According to Patty Pierce, Vice President of Human Resources for VF’s Outdoor Coalition (of which Timberland is a part), “VF recognizes that service is a critical element of Timberland’s culture. We joined Timberland in service at last year’s Serv-a-palooza and saw the benefits service brings to the work environment, the community, and to the business. We were inspired and decided to expand our own service commitment. VF’s Outdoor Coalition and VF’s Action Sports Coalition are excited to expand their community service and will now join Timberland in having two Coalition-wide service days each year, Earth Day in April and a second day in September.”
As we reflect on what we’ve accomplished in 20 years, we’re proud to say we’re just getting started. We’re excited that more consumers and partners than ever before will be joining us this year in creating positive change around the world.