Global outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland is rolling out the first products made with Community Cotton fibre sourced from its supply chain in Haiti following its five-year journey to reintroduce cotton farming to the country.
The move marks a milestone in Timberland’s partnership with the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA), which began in 2016 with a goal to create a new supply chain for sustainable cotton, while at the same time advancing the reforestation of Haiti and improving farmers’ lives.
Launched this week as part of its spring 2021 collection, the first Community Cotton styles include the women’s Atlanta Green EK+ Sneakers, men’s TrueCloud EK+ Sneakers and Caswell EK+ Bags. The EK+ nomenclature indicates that these are Earthkeepers Edition styles, representing Timberland’s pinnacle eco-innovations.
Timberland first partnered with SFA in 2010 to plant five million trees in five years in Haiti. To fulfil that commitment, the SFA created its Tree Currency agroforestry model to engage smallholder farmers to grow, transplant and care for trees. In exchange for their time working in tree nurseries, participating farmers earn credits they can exchange for better quality seeds, hand tools and agricultural training. After a few years, the list of redeemable benefits grew to include literacy programs, microcredit services, livestock and more services the farmers requested.
By the end of five years, SFA had planted five million trees and delivered significant benefits to the farmers. On average, the 6,000 SFA farmers engaged in the programme saw a 40% increase in their crop yields and a 50-100% increase in their incomes, which enabled them to send 3,400 more children to school. Encouraged by these results, Timberland decided to explore cotton as a crop that farmers could grow and the brand could use in its products – evolving from a supporter of the Haitian smallholder farming community to a customer.
This new cotton supply chain is open to other brands and industries, not just Timberland, to expand the opportunity and ensure diversification for the farmers.
“Five years ago, Timberland set out with a vision to bring cotton farming back to Haiti after a 30-year hiatus. Today, 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,” says Atlanta McIlwraith, director of global community engagement and activation for Timberland.
Timberland participated in Haiti’s first commercial cotton harvest in three decades in 2019. While last year, SFA began work on a mobile app for its agronomists to use with farmers to track crop inputs, yields, organic and regenerative practices, as well as to measure the socio-economic benefits of the farmers’ participation in the programme. The resulting Smallholder Data Services (SDS) app and platform will be pilot tested this year and will enable Timberland to trace the cotton in its products back to the farmers who grew it.
Meanwhile, Timberland recently announced it is partnering with regenerative design consultancy Terra Genesis International (TGI) to build what it claims is the world’s first regenerative rubber supply system for footwear, with plans to pilot a collection in 2023.