Timberland using cotton from revived Haiti supply chain

17 May 2021

Timberland has launched its first products using a new supply chain to reintroduce cotton farming to Haiti after a 30-year hiatus.

The footwear brand partnered with the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) in 2016 to create a new supply chain for sustainable cotton, advance reforestation of Haiti, and improve farmers’ lives. 

Timberland launched the first product using its “Community Cotton” branded fibre as part of its spring 2021 collection.

Timberland first partnered with SFA in 2010, creating its Tree Currency agroforestry model to engage smallholder farmers to grow, transplant and care for trees. In exchange for time working in tree nurseries, participating farmers earn credits they can exchange for better quality seeds, hand tools and agricultural training.

After five years, the SFA has planted 5m trees and on average the 6,000 SFA farmers engaged in the programme saw a 40% increase in crop yields and a 50-100% increase in incomes.

Timberland carried out a feasibility study in 2016 to explore the return of cotton farming, which was followed by field trials and in 2019 Haiti’s first commercial cotton harvest since the late 80s.

Last year, the SFA designed a mobile app for its agronomists to use with farmers to track crop inputs, yields, organic and regenerative practices, as well as measure the socio-economic benefits of farmers’ participation in the programme. It will be pilot tested this year, enabling Timberland to trace the cotton in its products back to the farmers who grew it.

The company said the new cotton supply chain was open to other brands and industries to expand the opportunity and ensure diversification for farmers. 

Atlanta McIlwraith, director of global community engagement and activation for Timberland, said: “We are incredibly proud to have a new source of responsibly-grown cotton. We branded it Community Cotton, because the agroforestry model plants trees, increases farm productivity, and enhances farmers’ incomes and lives.”

Last year, Timberland said in a podcast that it was scaling up regenerative practices across “all top volume materials” with help from the “power of collaboration”.

The Haiti project is one of four regenerative agriculture pilot projects, which include a regenerative rubber project in Thailand, transitioning 250 cotton farmers in India to regenerative organic certified practices, and a project involving regenerative sugarcane in Brazil to produce a plastic used in soles. 

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