Why Timberland is planting 50 million trees

Timberland plans to use its global tree-planting project as a chance to talk about its long-term sustainability strategy, which it hopes will help strengthen brand perceptions among consumers.

The cries for brands to do more to address the climate crisis are mounting, and it appears Timberland is listening.

The outdoor wear brand, which specialises in footwear, is committing to planting 50 million trees (enough to circle the earth 11 times) by 2025 in a bid to play an essential role in creating a sustainable future.

However, according to Timberland’s senior marketing director for EMEA, Giorgio D’Aprile, this project is about more than just planting trees.

Speaking to Marketing Week, D’Aprile says Timberland is using the launch of its tree planting project and accompanying campaign, ‘Nature Needs Heroes’, as an opportunity to talk about its long-term sustainability strategy which he hopes will help strengthen brand perceptions among consumers.

It will mark the brand’s largest ever global campaign in terms of scope and scale.

“In the past our sustainability programme was communicated through below-the-line tools. But under this umbrella we can then talk about all the pillars of our sustainability plan,” he explains.

“It allows us to talk about our sustainable products and stronger communities. This will be our medium to long-term message and form part of the company’s wider marketing strategy.”

D’Aprile says Timberland has a 90% brand awareness in Europe and is relatively known for being a sustainable brand, but he says there is always room to strengthen those views.

It all starts with our brand purpose which is to ‘step out, work together and make it better’. This was the starting point to launching a big project.

Giorgio D’Aprile

“The sustainability message has always been at the root of the brand. When we talk about sustainability we’re not just talking about this project. There are other commitments from the brand,” he explains.

“Commitment number one is to have better products, and commitment number two is to have a stronger community. Since the beginning we have tried to find sustainable materials and sustainable ways of making the products.”

Tree planting remains one of the effective strategies for climate change mitigation, with research from Swiss University ETH Zürich suggesting a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities.

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As part of the project Timberland will focus on a few key areas around the world. This includes the Great Green Wall, an African-led movement aiming to grow an 8,000km line of trees across the entire width of the continent in an attempt to fight climate change, drought, famine, conflict, and migration.

Timberland’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond planting trees, with initiatives also filtering into product innovation. D’Aprile says the brand aims to use 100% sustainable organic cotton within the next few years. It also offers staff 40 hours each per year to contribute to green activities.

In order to communicate its commitment Timberland has launched ‘Nature Needs Heroes’, a global campaign which features 12 sustainability ambassadors who are encouraging consumers to help make a difference.

Timberland wants to champion its renowned tree logo

He says the activation will help combine the brand’s “energy for fashion and passion for nature” which align with the brand’s core purpose.

“It all starts with our brand purpose which is to ‘step out, work together and make it better’. This was the starting point to launching a big project,” he explains.

“We launched our creative vision a few months ago which is focused on mixing our energy of fashion and passion for nature. The passion for nature is our root and energy of fashion is something we are going to build on. In everything we are doing in terms of production, communication and design, we need to find a sweet spot between the two.”

Despite feeling a responsibility to plant trees, D’Aprile is realistic in acknowledging Timberland can’t fix everything.

“By planting these trees we’re not solving this issue but we are helping the situation. This is not just about planting plants and introducing new oxygen, it’s helping climate change, it’s enhancing the survival of some animal species and it’s helping the ecosystem.”

The Timberland brand is synonymous with its tree logo, and D’Aprile says this is something it will continue to champion.

“Honestly, we don’t look at the other brands. Instead we look at what is relevant for us. We are conscious of remaining consistent to our roots – the tree logo. Which I why the tree planting is very in line with our positioning,” he says.

“Our final call to action is to inspire people and communities to make small changes or actions that could become relevant to the environment.”