As part of our three questions in three minutes series we get insight from a leading practitioner on what was the top focus for 2016, biggest sustainability trend for 2017 and where’s sustainability heading in 5 years’ time

What was your top focus for 2016? 
My top focus for 2016 was launching our Urban Greening initiative. Timberland has been involved in global tree planting efforts for years but we were looking to engage our consumers more locally. 

As an outdoor lifestyle brand with many of our consumers living in cities, we decided to bring the outdoors closer to home by making a 5-year commitment to double our footprint in 5 cities -- just not in the way you might expect. For every square foot of retail space in a target city, we will create or restore an equivalent or greater amount of green space.

We launched the effort last June with an event in the Mott Haven community of the Bronx where we helped transform a 32,000 square foot vacant lot into a thriving community garden. Green spaces yield so many benefits for communities. It’s been truly rewarding to be a part of the effort and mapping out future cities we can support in this way.

What is the biggest trend you see for sustainability for 2017?
A trend we see on a larger scale and one we’re hyper focused on at TBL as well is to drive more sustainable materials into our products.

While we’ve always placed a premium on using recycled, organic or renewable materials like rPET, organic cotton, and recycled rubber, we’re looking at how we can use materials that have an even bigger impact.

One example is our partnership with Thread International which provides recycled PET materials that have been made from waste plastic bottles collected in the poorest communities in Haiti. In doing so, Thread creates job and income opportunities while cleaning neighbourhoods and striving for a transparent supply chain.

Atlanta Mcllwraith

It’s really an amazing model that is creating both environmental and social good, and it hits all three pillars of Timberland’s Sustainability efforts to create responsible products, protect the outdoors, and serve our communities.

Where will you see sustainability heading in 5 years’ time?
In five years, I expect that much of Timberland’s and VF’s sustainability efforts will be moving towards a circular economy model through which we will create new products with their second and third lives in mind. Or perhaps we will create new products out of products that have already lived a life or two.

Ultimately, we would like to close the circle but I suspect that will happen more than five years from now. We’re also exploring how we can engage consumers more directly in our sustainability efforts through innovative use of technology and different forms of storytelling to enrich their experiences in our stores and on our web site.

How can we connect consumers with the farmers who grow organic cotton for us, or help them understand the difference made by a tree we planted in a particular community? How can we empower our consumers to plant that tree themselves? The possibilities are endless and endlessly exciting to imagine.

Atlanta Mcllwraith will be speaking at our upcoming Responsible Business Summit New York. Taking place on March 27-28, the event will host 250+ leading US brands sharing how to create a business of purpose and profit. Other brands leading the debate include; Dell, Ford Motors Foundation, Interface, PepsiCo, Infosys, Ecolab, VF Corporation, Zendesk, HSBC Bank USA plus many more. Click here for more information

Read our other three questions in three minutes series here:

3 in 3: Franz Paasche, SVP of corporate affairs and communications, PayPal

3 in 3: Nicole Koharik, corporate communications director, GOJO Industries



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