1a) How would you characterize Timberland’s exercise of its corporate power in society? Timberland uses its corporate power in society not only to make a profit, but to help others. It is a rarity for a company to go as far as Timberland has gone to make a huge difference in society. Whether participating in its City Year to Service program that serves its communities; or becoming carbon neutral, Timberland has paved the way and reflects a company that not only cares about its communities, but also cares about the environment.
1b) Is Timberland engaging multiple stakeholders in its business operations? If so how? Yes. Timberland’s Chief EarthKeeper and CEO Jeff Swartz, hosts regular stakeholder engagement calls to inform, inspire, and engage others about Timberland’s corporate initiatives. They allow stakeholders to dialogue in a public forum. Past calls have covered topics such as corporate climate strategies, responsible sourcing, eco labeling, community greening, and the current state of corporate responsibilities.
2a) Has Timberland balanced its economic and social responsibilities through its various programs, such as the Path to Service program and sustainability goals? Yes, Timberland planned to build 15 community gardens worldwide and refurbish 80 playgrounds by 2009, utilizing the more than 76,000 employee volunteer service hours. The company contributes 2% of its pre-taxed income annually and makes grants to many non-profit organizations, including many of those it aids through its service projects.
They advocated an ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2010, meaning they would eliminate or offset its own carbon footprint by reducing emissions at its facilities and this can be seen in its Ontario, CA distribution center where 60 percent of its power is generated through installation of new solar panels. The solar installation reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 480,000 pounds annually. In the Dominican Republic plant, Timberland installed a wind turbine and solar heating panels to provide approximately 30,000 kilowatt-hours of clean renewable energy each year.
2b) Are the company’s programs examples of enlightened self-interest? Yes, because Timberland considers what they call earthkeeping, common sense. Earthkeeping allows them to make their products by using recycled materials and also allows them to use renewable energy in their facilities. Earthkeeping is second nature to them. Their belief is that earthkeeping will help them create and sell better gear for customers to enjoy the outdoors and to protect the outdoors by being environmentally responsible.
3. What impact do you think that the current economic recession may have on Timberland’s social programs? With the recession, most companies are cutting back on company-sponsored programs to stay profitable. There is no doubt that this has affected the Timberland Corporation as well. However, as the article noted, with 95% of employee participation in the company’s sponsored program, if the company could no longer sponsor the program, greater than 50% would most likely stay.
4. How would you improve Timberland’s corporate social responsibility program? Timberland’s corporate social responsibility program, although great, could improve by involving its shareholders in its green efforts. Timberland could promise dividends if its green-goals are met quarterly. This would give its shareholders a vested interest in ensuring Timberland continues its corporate social responsibility programs.
Even after the economic slowdown in 2007 through 2009, Jeffrey Swartz has continued to look for ways to not only improve the communities his company affects, but also to improve the company. He has turned his monitoring inward on his factories and launched improvement programs that have improved working conditions for his employees. As he stated in Timberland’s 2009 Earthkeeper Report, “The results from our remediation efforts also support our belief that going beyond monitoring and beyond factory walls is critical to addressing workers’ needs.” The article also mentions that they have eliminated “high-risk” issues from some of their footwear sourcing channels and seen their business partners increase their scores on Timberland’s Code of Conduct assessments – which help measure working condition improvements.
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