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Timberland Launches Take-Backs, Teases Easy-to-Recycle Hiker

Timberland finally launched its product take-back program Timberloop Monday.

The circularity initiative encourages consumers to return any used Timberland footwear, clothing or accessories, either in-store or via a ship-from-home option. These items will either be refurbished for resale—a dedicated site is slated to launch this spring in partnership with ReCircled—or disassembled so that “some parts” can be reused, recycled or upcycled.

The brand said it installed clearly marked donation boxes in each full price and outlet Timberland store. Free shipping labels are also available on Timberland’s website. Those who participate in the Timberloop program receive a 10 percent discount toward their next purchase.

“We’re finding that our brand fans are increasingly concerned about the environment and their personal consumption choices,” Atlanta McIlwraith, director of community engagement and activation, told Sourcing Journal. “With this in mind, we made it a priority to really deliver an experience and program that would make participation as seamless and easy as possible.”

Timberland launched its Timberloop take-back program in the U.S.

Timberland originally teased the take-back program in June. At the time, the VF Corp. division said the initiative would launch at U.S. stores in August 2021 with a digital, ship-from-home option to follow later that summer. Timberloop was slated to arrive in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in the fall and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region in the spring.

However, as the outdoor brand worked to finalize logistics and ensure the program was ready to go, that rollout was delayed. Now, Timberloop is slated to arrive in EMEA in April and APAC in 2023.

“This is quite a complex undertaking, and one we’re incredibly excited about,” McIlwraith said. “Whether they choose to participate in-stores or online, we want to ensure that the consumer has an amazing and seamless experience. The extra time has allowed us to achieve that.”

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Over the past five months, Timberland has worked “extensively” with its partners to ensure every touchpoint, from its retail stores to its upcoming online resale platform, is optimized to seamlessly serve the customer, McIlwraith said. At the same time, she added, the brand has continued to brainstorm on product designs that will work in tandem with the Timberloop program and further its broader circularity goals.

The Timberloop Trekker, a “city hiker” that will be the first silhouette to execute on this work, is still set to debut this spring. The shoe, described as offering “sneaker-like comfort” and a “progressive outdoor look,” is designed so that consumers can easily remove and disassemble the outsoles for recycling through the Timberloop platform. It is slated to drop on Earth Day, April 22.

“Timberland has been using recycled materials in footwear for years, but this design innovation puts us on the path to true circularity, where nothing goes to waste,” McIlwraith said. “We now have a product that can be disassembled and recycled, and we have the process and infrastructure in place to close the loop.”

Designing for circularity spurred Timberland to evolve its approach to bringing a new product to life. “When you decide to design footwear for easier recyclability and circularity, the design process does shift a little,” McIlwraith said. “You have to begin to think about construction differently. The shoes are designed to last a long time but now they need to be easy to disassemble at the end of their life span. You’re adding complexity to the process while needing to keep the quality of your materials and design. The trick is to aim for fewer parts overall while not sacrificing the quality and durability people expect from Timberland.”

She added that the brand is “constantly working to educate ourselves about the latest advances in circularity and regenerative sourcing as we work toward our bold goal for Timberland products to be net positive by 2030.”

Timberland plans to debut the Timberloop Trekker next spring

Susie Mulder, global brand president for Timberland, described Timberloop’s launch as “a huge step” as the brand works toward its “vision of a more equitable and green future.”

“Timberland products are already designed to be durable and long-lasting, and I love the idea of extending that even further with a second life outside the landfill,” Mulder said in a statement. “With the growing awareness of environmental issues and personal consumption choices, I believe our community will be as excited about the Timberloop program as we are.”

Timberloop supports Timberland’s longer-term ambition of designing 100 percent of its products for circularity by 2030. The brand first announced the goal in Sept. 2020, when it revealed its intention “to have a net positive impact on nature” by 2030. The two-pronged vision also includes a commitment to source all Timberland’s natural materials from regenerative agriculture by 2030.

McIlwraith said Timberland’s 2030 vision “permeates” every aspect of the brand culture. “Everyone here is working toward a common goal and that fosters a really strong, community-minded culture and connection worldwide,” she added. “We all share the belief that we all need to move the world forward in our own ways.” Employees especially interested in “directly” being a “part of the process” can take advantage of a Timberloop collection box being installed in the lobby at company headquarters in Stratham, N.H., she said.

The brand has made considerable strides in sustainability and experimenting with new ways of engaging consumers. In November, Timberland teamed with British startup Hurr to release its first collection of borrowable fashion on the latter’s growing rental platform. The duo curated a selection of genderless outerwear in accessible shades including black, grey, red and neutral khaki.

Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.