The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

To sign-up to receive the CSR Newsletters regularly during the fall and spring academic semesters, e-mail author David Chandler at

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Strategic CSR - Timberland

The article in the url below is a wide-ranging interview with Jeff Swartz, CEO of Timberland (Issues: Volunteering, p141), who has been a leading advocate for strategic CSR for many years. For Swartz, CSR is not an abstract concept, but a factor of business that he wrestles with, often publicly, in making his firm’s day-to-day operational decisions. Below are a sample of quotes from the interview that reflect, not only Timberland’s progressive stance on many aspects of CSR, but also Swartz’s refreshing openness on how difficult it is to find acceptable answers to some of these challenges:

“The social fabric is frayed at best and torn in many places.”
“We build things that last. Maybe we should go into the banking business.”
“For example we are for capping carbon emissions, but not for trading them.
“Consumers are starting to value brands as social institutions.”
“Brands must be transparent in a way that we have never been transparent before.”
“We are learning how to get naked in front of customers in a socially acceptable fashion, which is not a first instinct for a brand like ours.”

Timberland has for three years carried “nutrition labels” on products that show in explicit detail the environmental impact of a product and the child-labour record of the factory that made it.

Timberland is “almost at the point where we have achieved sustainability in human rights”.

The goal is to ensure workers go from being “factors in production” to “partners in production”.
Swartz also has ambitious goals to cut the environmental impacts of Timberland shoes, which he notes “are toxic, by definition.”

A second green goal is to create products that are completely recyclable and biodegradable:

“At heart, responsible business does not mean being more expensive. You are not responsible in order to save cost, but saving cost is a consequence.”

Take care

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006

The big interview: Jeff Swartz – Consumer trust that’s good for the sole
Timberland’s Jeff Swartz explains why brands must start engaging consumers on social issues to rebuild trust lost during the financial crisis
John Russell
Ethical Corporate Magazine
May 3, 2009