How Timberland is helping restart Haiti's cotton industry

Timberland has scaled up regenerative practices across “all top volume materials” with help from the “power of collaboration”.

The footwear brand said that it’s best positioned to lead the fashion industry in the area of regenerative agriculture due to all their top volume materials being natural.

Speaking on a sustainability podcast series with media agency Edie, Zach Angelini, environmental manager at Timberland, said: “We’re diving headfirst into pilots for regenerative and circular innovations across all of our top volume materials. 

“The idea is to use these as test and learn opportunities and take those learnings and drive towards scale for our broader product lines.”

He added: “We believe in the power of collaboration and the scale you can achieve through that. We know that in order to efficiently achieve the goals ourselves and amplify our impact across the industry, collaboration is going to be absolutely critical.”

Timberland has recently started four new regenerative agriculture pilot projects to source cotton, rubber and a plastic derived from sugarcane, which is used for making soles.

This includes a regenerative rubber project in Thailand working with farmers who use a practice called “dynamic agroforestry” to grow rubber while replicating the biodiversity in the rainforest within plantations.

In 2021, the brand will also produce a line using cotton sourced from a project with farmers in Haiti. 

Angelini said: “The project is a big milestone for the brand because it represents the restart of Haiti cotton industry which has been dormant for around 30 years, so we’re working with partners on the ground to bring it back and enable the environment and farmers to benefit.” 

Timberland is also transitioning 250 cotton farmers in India to regenerative organic certified practices, and will be sourcing cotton from the farmers for clothing products in 2021. 

A project involving regenerative sugarcane in Brazil will be used to produce a plastic used in the making of soles. 

Timberland will launch its first regenerative leather boot this autumn produced from regenerative farming of cattle started in 2019.

Angelini said: “Leather is both our top volume material, but also our top impact material, so regenerative cattle ranching presents an opportunity to potentially transition it from, today, being our most negatively impactful material to, tomorrow, being our most positively impactful material.” 

Timberland has identified partners through industry groups and sustainability conferences.

Angelini said: “These are spaces that serve as key hubs for collaboration, identifying partners and staying on top of research and innovation in the sustainability space. We use that to establish the connections and these help catalyse change at scale.”

He encouraged fashion brands to join other industry groups such as the Textile Exchange, the Sustainable Power Coalition, and the Outdoor Industry Association, to build relationships to enable innovative programmes.

During its journey to regenerative practices, Timberland became a founding member of the Leather Working Group, aimed at “addressing the impacts of the tanning industry as a whole”, which has resulted in Timberland sourcing 96% of leather from tanneries rated silver or gold for environmental best practices.

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