The update arrives nearly eight months after the VF Corp. subsidiary announced it would design all its products for circularity and source 100 percent of its natural materials from regenerative agriculture by 2030.
In September, Timberland said it was working with farmers to pilot new regenerative rubber supply chains. The brand revealed more specifics Tuesday, adding that it is working with its sister brands Vans and The North Face to partner with Terra Genesis International (TGI) in Thailand to build what it called “the industry’s first regenerative rubber supply system.”
While rubber is typically grown in a monoculture that degrades biodiversity, relies on chemicals and may involve exploitative labor process, regenerative rubber farming incorporates multiple tree species to mimic a natural forest ecosystem. This revitalizes biodiversity, enhances the soil health, improves carbon sequestration and provides farmers with multiple streams of income, Timberland said. By supporting “train the trainer” programs, it added, Timberland and VF will also help scale local indigenous knowledge and transition more plantations to regenerative systems.
“We are grateful that, through our partnership with Timberland and VF Corporation, we can move this vital regenerative process forward,” Luke Smith, CEO of TGI, said in a statement. “While the transformation from rubber monocultures to regenerative farming on one farm is impressive, as the shift spreads wider, it is likely to have significant social, ecological and economic impacts in Thailand.”
Timberland said it expects to pilot its first regenerative rubber footwear in 2023. The supply system, it noted, will eventually be open to brands across and outside the industry.
The outdoor brand also offered an update on its regenerative leather business. Since launching its first collection of boots made using regenerative leather last fall, Timberland has debuted several more styles with regenerative leather, including the new Greenstride Solar Wave EK+ Collection, which, in addition to regenerative leather uppers, also feature soles made with 75 percent renewable materials. The Timberland Pro line will introduce its first regenerative leather boot, the Gridworks EK+, later this summer, it said.
“At Timberland, we strive for a greener and more equitable future, and investing in regenerative agriculture is one of the most powerful levers we have to achieve this vision,” Zack Angelini, senior manager of environmental stewardship for Timberland, said in a statement. “We are excited about the progress we’re making to source our top volume materials in a way that supports the farmers and ranchers working to reverse environmental degradation and create a world that is more abundant, more resilient and even more beautiful than it is today.”
The industry is awakening to regenerative agriculture’s potential.
Earlier this month, Allbirds committed to 100 percent of its wool products coming from regenerative sources by December 2025. The direct-to-consumer brand said it is drawn to natural materials and “the farm is the first step when sourcing for any product.” The sustainability-focused startup said it is working with Merino wool farmers in New Zealand to increase the supply of regenerative wool, while also creating innovative financing models to incentivize them to use their land to store carbon.