Timberland: Doing the Right Thing

On the same day I posted the blog on “Deforestation and Your Supply Chain”, Earthkeepers posted a statement from Jeffrey Swartz, Timberland’s CEO in an Update From the Amazon. The deforestation referred to by Greenpeace is caused by cattle ranchers who cut down the rain forest to raise livestock primarily for food. Less than 10% of the proceeds of the cow are for the leather sold as raw materials to suppliers who turn the hides into products such as footwear. Only 7% of the leather sourced by Timberland comes from Brazil. Timberland could have easily just walked away from purchasing materials in Brazil rather than get involved in trying to improve the environmental issues in this country. They already employ practices to audit their supply chain, processes and materials through to the tannery. To go further, they would have to have trace-ability beyond the tannery, to the beef processor in Brazil and to where the cows are grazed.

While this would have solved Timberland’s problem, it wouldn’t help the issue of deforestation. I give credit to Timberland for their commitment to engage with others to help solve this important environmental challenge. Overcoming their anger at Greenpeace for not approaching them directly, they collaborated with the NGO and the company’s leather supplier, Bertin, to find a way to ensure trace-ability and to prevent illegal sources of cattle from entering the value chain.

Let’s look at the complexity. Solving this issue requires collaboration among industries such as footwear and supermarkets, raw material suppliers, manufacturers and beef processors, cattle ranchers, any intermediaries in the value chain as well as the Brazilian government and environmental groups such as Greenpeace. Jeffrey Swartz put it this way “It’s easy to provide a neat summary of progress against a complex issue in a few short paragraphs; the work behind the words has been much more challenging, demanding tons of time, effort and resources — from the CEO and a whole group of activists within the company.”

“Business can be a force for positive environmental change … collaboration yields more powerful outcomes than the effort of one …" I couldn’t agree more, and I echo Mr. Swartz’ hope that world leaders do what’s needed to have a meaningful agreement at Copenhagen in December to address the global issues we face.

Source: http://www.earthkeeper.com/blog/uncategorized/update-from-the-amazon/

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