Direct-sourced apparel used 330 metric tonnes of cotton – 84% was BCI-certified and 16% was organic

Direct-sourced apparel used 330 metric tonnes of cotton – 84% was BCI-certified and 16% was organic

Outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland has achieved a year-on-year increase in its use of more sustainably sourced cotton in the third quarter, and says all of its vendors audited for social and labour compliance in the period met or exceeded its expectations.   

Timberland apparel and accessories used 590 metric tonnes of cotton in the period, 73.5% of which (434 metric tonnes) was either organic (15%), BCI-certified (47.5%) or US-origin (11%). This compares to 64% in the third quarter last year. However, the figure is down on the 77% share reported for the second-quarter

Specifically, direct-sourced apparel in the third quarter used 330 metric tonnes of cotton – 84% of which was BCI-certified and 16% organic.

The company is working toward a 2020 target for 100% of the cotton used in its apparel, accessories and licensed goods to be sourced more sustainably than conventional cotton. This includes cotton that is certified organic, recycled or Fairtrade; of US origin; or sourced as Better Cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).

As part of this goal, Timberland says it is also working with its accessories licensees who have historically struggled to find ways to incorporate responsible cotton into their products. 

The brand's latest quarterly corporate social responsibility update also shows progress on its five-year performance targets across three core CSR pillars – product, outdoors and community.


In terms of the materials used in its products, Timberland says its average use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) per pair of shoes was 52 grams during the third quarter, a "considerable decrease" over its 2018 usage of 56 grams per pair.

"Our manufacturing facility in the Dominican Republic continues to reduce their VOC usage and their best practices are being employed by other manufacturers, including a factory in Cambodia using new machinery that dispenses the adhesives through a handheld applicator," the company says. "The machinery aids in better accuracy of application and results in less waste. We remain committed to our goal of averaging 42 grams of VOCs per pair."

Elsewhere, 95.2% of the overall leather volume used for Timberland footwear, apparel, accessories and licensed products was produced at tanneries that have 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. The figure is flat with Timberland's 2018 third-quarter result.

When looking at leather used just for Timberland footwear, 99.5% came from tanneries rated Gold or Silver. 

This year also marks the brand's first in reporting non-PFC (per-fluorinated compounds) Durable Water Repellent (DWR) in apparel fabric.

DWR is a coating added to fabrics at the factory to make them water-resistant, while PFCs are a class of chemical substances found in many DWRs that are potentially hazardous to humans – at the factory level where the waterproofing is applied, as well as to the end-user. Timberland aims to eliminate all PFCs in its waterproof footwear and apparel, and is working toward an end goal for 100% of its DWRs to be non-PFC. 

Over the past several years, its apparel team has transitioned the "vast majority" of its DWR fabrics (97.5%) to non-PFC chemistry.

"Our remaining products with PFC-based DWRs have specific performance requirements (e.g. oil repellency for workwear fabrics) that, to-date, can only be achieved with PFC-based chemistry. We are actively researching and engaging chemical suppliers with the goal of identifying non-PFC chemistry innovations that can achieve the required performance attributes for these products."


At the end of the third quarter, there were 421 factories approved to produce for Timberland. Broken down by business unit, this equates to 62 footwear factories, 145 apparel factories, 102 factories producing licensed goods and accessories, 31 tanneries, 67 fabric mills and component suppliers, and 14 independent distributor factories.

Of these, 206 (49%) were rated accepted, meaning there are no serious safety, health, or labour issues and the facility is certified to produce VF products for 12 months, while 215 (51%) were rated 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 it has a final six months to satisfactorily resolve the outstanding issues or be downgraded.

Meanwhile, VF Compliance audited 104 Timberland factories during the period, rating 44 (42%) as accepted, 52 (50%) as developmental, and 8 (8%) as pending rejection. The factories rated pending rejection are working on their corrective action plans and will be re-audited within six months. Purchase orders with the rejected factory are on hold until the factory is re-audited and a favourable rating is attained, or production is relocated to another factory.

22 new factories were selected to produce for Timberland in the third-quarter. Of these factories, 5 (23%) were rated as accepted, 14 (63%) as developmental, and 3 (14%) as pending rejection. These 3 factories were given a corrective action plan (CAP) detailing the issues that need remediation and will be re-audited in six months.

Timberland's parent company VF Corporation recently outlined new targets to slash its carbon emissions over the next decade, including a 30% absolute reduction of Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions focusing on farm-to-retail materials, sourcing operations and logistics.