Footwear fans might start their search for some great collectible items by looking at things like distinct colours, logos, or design details, but if you are also interested in the way brands interact with the wider world, the approach being taken by Timberland is likely to catch your eye.
Many a brand will boast about going green, being sustainable and so on, but you wouldn’t have to be Greta Thunberg to be suspicious of “greenwashing” and other PR exercises that are all rhetoric and no substance. However, in the case of Timberland, the evidence is the company really is walking the talk.
Indeed, if that walking takes place wearing a pair of Timberland boots, between your soles and the pavement will be just a bit of the 500,000 pounds of recycled rubber used in Timberland footwear every year.
You might also have a bit of the 345 million recycled plastic bottles in those shoes or in another Timberland gear item.
All this has come about after the company set itself a programme of sustainability goals for 2020, which it describes as being “ambitious as they were relatable”. These included using ethical cotton from accredited suppliers in the US and Haiti - the latter being used as a supplier more to help the country’s economy recover after a devastating hurricane.
It has also used accredited leather and removed ozone-depleting CFCs from its processes.
A key element was the commitment to include at least one recycled or renewed element in every shoe by 2020, with each item of footwear having at least ten per cent of its material from such sources. In 2016, 37 million tonnes of recycled bottle plastic was being used by the firm. This rose to 40 million in 2017 and hit 270 million by the time 2020 came around.
If all this isn’t enough to impress, wait until your next run or walk in the woods, or under the trees in the park.
Chances are, those trees have been there a long time and nobody is planning to chop them down anytime soon. But across the world, deforestation is a big issue and the company pledged to plant ten million new trees across the globe by 2020.
All these figures have continued to rise since 2020. More recycled plastic, more trees planted (the latest target is 50 million over a five-year period). And there have been more initiatives to get excited about.
Among these is one that is very shoe-specific. Known as the Second Chance Programme, this involves recycling used footwear (whether made by Timberland or not) and to date this has seen 1,700 shoes in nine countries being ‘rehoused’.
Timberland’s website seeks to push the message further, publishing advice and information on how to recycle and upcycle fashion items instead of them ending up in landfill.
It all amounts to a pretty serious commitment to sustainability that challenges the rest of the footwear sector to raise its game and do likewise, something that, in such a big global industry, could make a real difference.
Who knows, maybe sometime soon we’ll even see Greta Thunberg walking around in a pair of Timberland shoes.