The best thing that can be said about Timberland is the commitment they maintain to transparency in their supply chain as well as the materials that go into their products. Unfortunately for them, this transparency shines light on the many shortcomings they have in terms of sustainability. The very fact that the boots are made from leather is evidence that concern for the environment may not be at the forefront of production. Still, many corporations could learn from Timberland’s transparency and openness about their need for improvement.
Timberland Men’s 6 Inch Waterproof Boots are made primarily of leather. Currently, 92% of their leather is sourced from tanneries rated gold or silver from the Leather Working Group, an organization that assesses the environmental compliance of leather from different manufacturers based on the UN’s sustainable development goals. The fact that Timberland' is using highly-rated leather is definitely a sign that they have some level of commitment to sustainability. With that being said, leather is still a byproduct of the unsustainable meat industry; even if it is not directly adding to the harm being done, the use of leather is still spurring demand for harmful practices. The soles of these boots are made of injection-moulded rubber. In 2019, 68% of Timberland boots contained recycled, organic, and renewable (ROR) rubber. It is important to note that this does not mean that 68% of rubber used by Timberland is recycled, but simply that 68% of their boots contained some level of recycled rubber.
Contrary to most corporations, Timberland updates their corporate sustainability reports every quarter year. This allows them to consistently track their environmental progress. It is not often that major corporations are willing to be this transparent about the sourcing of their materials and the sustainability of their production. For example, since 2010, 100% of their packaging has come from recycled materials. In terms of how the actual boots are made, there is not much information to be found since most of the production takes place overseas.
To their credit, Timberland is transparent about their supply chain. Each quarter-year, they publish a comprehensive list of their suppliers. The vast majority of them are overseas, with China being responsible for about half of the manufacturing. For a long time in the 2000s, Timberland was heavily criticized for harsh working conditions in their factories overseas. They had a reputation for running sweatshops with horrible conditions akin to those in Nike factories. By all accounts, these allegations were absolutely founded in reality; Timberland’s working conditions were atrocious and workers were forced to work overtime or risk losing their job. In 2011, Timberland was acquired by VF corporation. Thankfully, it seems as though they have made efforts to improve the conditions for workers overseas since then. At a corporate level, they still have a lot of work to do. Currently 93% of the people in their corporate office are white. While it is good that they are transparent about this, it is hard to believe they are putting much effort into actually adding more diversity based on how little they currently have.