At the end of Q2 2018, there were 427 factories actively producing for Timberland

At the end of Q2 2018, there were 427 factories actively producing for Timberland

Outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland continues to progress towards its 2020 sustainability goals, particularly in its bid to incorporate more sustainable cotton into its apparel.

The company's just-released second-quarter 2018 corporate social responsibility report shows the latest results towards its five-year performance targets across three core CSR pillars – product, outdoors and community.

Timberland's global apparel production, which accounts for 89% of all cotton sourced, has "significantly" increased its use of responsible cotton. During Q2, 95% of its cotton used was either organic, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) certified, or US origin.

In addition, 80% of the cotton used in Timberland apparel, accessories and licensed goods was either organic (27%), BCI certified (51%) or US-origin (2%). The brand is working towards achieving 100% by 2020.

Materials

During 2017, the brand – owned by US apparel giant VF Corp – changed its method of reporting the use of material containing recycled, organic or renewable (ROR) content. From 2011 to 2016, all materials were reported, including those used in minor components such as webbings, trims and labels. To drive focus towards using ROR materials in more significant components of footwear (e.g., uppers, linings, soles), the company is no longer including minor components in its reporting. As such, materials with at least 10% ROR content were used in 67% of all Timberland footwear shipped.

Though this appears to be a reduction in ROR usage, Timberland said its use of recycled PET increased by the equivalent of 3m plastic bottles. In 2017, it incorporated over 890,232 pounds of recycled PET into its footwear – the equivalent of 40m plastic water bottles.

While some challenges currently exist in utilising ROR materials over conventional materials, Timberland remains confident that by 2020 every Timberland boot, shoe, and sandal will incorporate ROR materials.

The brand is also working to eliminate per-fluorinated compounds (PFCs) completely from durable water repellants (DWR) used in its products by 2020 and to phasing out the use of PVC, with an end goal of being PVC-free by 2020.

For 2017, the company reported that 91% of its footwear DWRs were non-PFC, while 3% of total footwear shipped during the period contained PVC, versus 2.3% in 2016.

"While not yet at 100%, we are proud of the progress that we've made over the years to phase PVC out of our footwear," Timberland said.

In terms of the materials used in its products, Timberland said its average use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) per pair of shoes was 54 grams during the quarter, a slight increase over 53 grams in the year-ago period.

The company said strategies implemented in its owned-manufacturing facility in the Dominican Republic have enabled it to keep its VOC usage to a minimum. These strategies include employee training, better containment of VOC adhesives to prevent evaporation, upgrading VOC application equipment, more targeted application, and increased material pre-treatment processes to minimise the VOC adhesives needed.

"While progress has been made over the years, there is still work to be done with our suppliers to improve their chemical management practices further and to identify new alternatives for lower VOC adhesion methods that maintain the necessary performance attributes for our product lines," the firm said in its report. "We remain committed to our goal of averaging 42 grams of VOCs per pair by 2020."

Meanwhile, the firm booked a rise in the overall volume of leather produced at tanneries with a Gold or Silver rating from the cross-brand Leather Working Group (LWG). LWG certification is awarded to tanneries that demonstrate environmental best practices and performance in all areas of leather production, from chemical, water and waste management to energy use and hide traceability.

During the second quarter, 96% of the group's overall leather volume for Timberland footwear, apparel, accessories and licensed products was produced at tanneries that have a Gold or Silver LWG rating. This compares to 94.1% in the year-ago period. When looking at leather used for Timberland footwear only, 98.4% came from tanneries rated Gold or Silver. The firm remains committed to its goal to limit production at non-certified tanneries until they achieve Gold or Silver status.

Manufacturing

At the end of Q2 2018, there were 427 factories actively producing for Timberland. Broken down by business unit, this equates to 54 footwear factories, 156 apparel factories, 107 factories producing licensed goods and accessories, 31 tanneries, 70 fabric mills and component suppliers, and 9 independent distributor factories.

One hundred and sixty-two (37%) were rated as accepted, meaning there are no serious safety, health, or labour issues and the facility is certified to produce VF products for 12 months, while 264 (62%) were ranked as developmental, meaning there are some minor safety, health, or labour issues. These factories are authorised to produce for VF while the issues identified are corrected in a timely manner and a follow-up audit is scheduled within 6–9 months. If the problems are corrected as required, then the status of the factory will be elevated to 'accepted.' If not, the factory is downgraded to 'pending rejection-180 days', at which time they have a final six months to satisfactorily resolve the outstanding issues or be downgraded.

One factory at the end of the second quarter was rated rejected.