95.5% of leather used by Timberland comes from tanneries with a Gold or Silver rating from the cross-brand Leather Working Group (LWG)

95.5% of leather used by Timberland comes from tanneries with a Gold or Silver rating from the cross-brand Leather Working Group (LWG)

US outdoor apparel and footwear giant Timberland is making steady progress on its sustainability goals, yet its latest quarterly update identifies a number of areas where challenges still remain.

The company has also set out a new commitment to eliminate all PFCs (per-fluorinated compounds) from its waterproof footwear and apparel, with the end goal for 100% of its durable water repellent treatments to be non-PFC.

Setting out its metrics for the second quarter of 2016, the company sourced from 357 factories during the period, of which 99.5% met or exceeded the company's social and labour compliance expectations. Orders with Rejected factories were withheld until corrective actions were implemented or production was relocated, it said.

Among the high-risk issues identified in audits conducted by VF Compliance, a unit of parent company VF Corp, working hours remains the most prevalent challenge, followed by payment of proper wages and benefits.

In terms of the materials used in its products, Timberland saw a slight increase in the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) per pair of shoes, rising to 57 grams during Q2, from 55 grams in the same period a year earlier.

This it attributed to higher production at facilities making styles that are more VOC intensive, as well as new factories coming online that have not yet participated in VOC reduction initiatives.

Solvent-based adhesives release VOCs, and the company accepts "there is still work to be done with our suppliers to further improve their chemical management practices as well as identifying alternatives for using lower VOC adhesion methods that maintain the necessary performance attributes for our product lines. We remain committed to our goal of averaging 42 grams of VOCs per pair."

Another decline was seen during the quarter in the overall volume of leather produced at tanneries with a Gold or Silver rating from the cross-brand Leather Working Group (LWG) used for Timberland footwear, apparel and accessories.  

At the end of Q2 this slipped to 95.5%, compared with 98.7% in Q1 and the year 2015. The firm attributed this to a higher volume of leather apparel produced in the quarter, most of which used goat and lamb, neither of which came from LWG audited tanneries.

Timberland also said three of its footwear tanneries had "temporary LWG certification lapses," although their Silver/Gold certification is expected to be re-instated during Q3.

That being said, the company adds "the small volume of leather overall that is not from Gold or Silver-rated tanneries continues to demonstrate our commitment to limit production at non-certified tanneries."

Timberland also revealed that 44% of all cotton used in its apparel in the second quarter was either organic, US-origin or sourced from the Better Cotton Initiative. This was in line with the first quarter, despite changes in its seasonal product mix. For the rest of the year it expects further replacement of conventionally grown cotton.