Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Timberland chief calls on businesses to do more

Jeff Swartz told a CSV audience that firms should no longer be satisfied with cause-related marketing, writes Anita Pati.

Companies need to go beyond CSR initiatives such as cause-related marketing to create sustainable social change, according to Jeff Swartz, chief executive of Timberland.

Swartz was addressing the themes of commerce and justice at CSV's annual Edith Kahn Memorial Lecture last Tuesday.

"No more being satisfied with cause-related marketing," he said. "No more thinking we've done our jobs if we wear a ribbon of one colour or another. While I thank God for all the money raised by selling ribbons, CRM doesn't even come close to telling a story or compelling consumers to commit themselves."

In a rousing call to action, Swartz said that initiatives needed to be integrated within the fabric of the organisation.

"Where is the song of transformation that the commerce and justice revolution must sing?" he asked. "If we settle at the level of CRM, we will not stir up the energy we need - the moral energy of our fellow citizens."

He said that Timberland used imaginative marketing to get the social responsibility message across - despite the fact that, by his own admission, consumers don't need his $100 boots.

"We don't advertise 'good boots, please buy one'. We lay it on: wind, water, earth and sky, nothing can stop you, Ansel Adams, the great outdoors. And so, this year, 30 million consumers are going to buy something from our brand that they don't fundamentally need."

The US-based international clothing and footwear company has recently formed a partnership with the UK volunteering body. Two CSV staff have recently returned from a fact-finding trip to the company's New Hampshire headquarters to gain insight into employee volunteering in the US.

A CSV spokesman said: "Timberland has a reputation for innovation, so it was useful for our staff to get an insight into what works for the company."

He added that the charity was planning to set up employee volunteering team tasks for the company when Timberland's employees converge this summer for two staff conferences. "They are keen to have a volunteering element to such conferences," he said.

Timberland prides itself on its CSR initiatives, such as its Path of Service programme, which gives every Timberland employee 40 hours of annual paid leave to volunteer in the community.

Swartz's visit coincides with his UK division's decision to second 120 Timberland volunteers to clean up the litter-strewn Dukes Meadows on the banks of the River Thames at Chiswick.

The group teamed up with environmental charity Thames21 for a day of environmental action to mark International Earth Day last Thursday.

anita.pati@haynet.com

KEY POINTS

- Jeff Swartz, chief executive of Timberland, told the CSV audience that companies should move beyond offering only employee volunteering or CRM

- Swartz said Timberland succeeded in shifting products to 30 million consumers while getting a socially responsible message across

- CSV and Timberland are in the early stages of a partnership that will involve mutual learning on employee volunteering

- Timberland employees volunteered to help Thames21 clean up part of the shoreline of the Thames to mark International Earth Day last Thursday.

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