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  • Simon Mainwaring

Purpose At Work: How Timberland Is Planting A Climate Change Movement

Brand-fueled movements connect consumers with the causes they care about and move the needle on impact. By bringing together people, purpose and products, brands gain consumer goodwill, earned media and build a better world.

A great example of a brand that’s building a movement is Timberland. The footwear and apparel brand announced it will plant 50 million trees across the globe within the next 5 years, building on the tree planting efforts it has already led since 2001.

Part of the Plant The Change initiative is to help build The Great Green Wall. The Wall will span over 8000 km across Africa. The reforestation project aims to act as a carbon sink. It will also provide economic opportunities for local communities and foster biodiversity. Additionally, Timberland is planting trees in places like Haiti, the United States and China. The global campaign is about more than increasing brand recognition. “Our goal is to be net positive,” Jim Pisani, Timberland’s Global Brand President, said in a Fast Company interview.

In another purpose fueled move, Timberland’s parent company stopped purchasing Brazilian leather. The decision was a response to the Brazilian government and ranchers’ lack of attention to fighting the Amazon fires.

The takeaway is that Timberland is leveraging its business to catalyze positive impact. What’s more, the brand is weaving purpose into its products by offering eco-friendly fashion to conscious consumers. While this helps attract loyalty and purchases, purpose is bigger than profit for profit’s sake. “It’s definitely our hope that we’ll inspire others in the industry to take action. Whether they’re planting trees or doing their own thing,” Pisani told Fast Company. “We all have a role to play in supporting the environment and lessening our impact.”

Branded movements speak to a higher purpose. They also address cultural issues, offer consumers ways to participate and catalyze social change that has lasting effects. Timberland’s purposeful actions offer valuable lessons for brands looking to lead with purpose.

Here’s the top lessons from Timberland on how to grow a movement

Mobilize around your purpose: Brands that work towards a higher purpose position themselves as part of a concrete solution to a problem that all stakeholders face. By acting on purpose, you share your values with key stakeholders. Consumers are attracted to companies that contribute to causes they care about. This helps brands open doors to partnerships and strengthen ties with target demographics.

Timberland’s purpose is “To step outside, work together and make it better” and its mission is to “make the world around us better through dedication to sustainable products and innovations, greening initiatives, and service to our communities.” The brand is integrating this mission throughout its value chain. It's part of employee engagement initiatives, product innovation, marketing and community impact work.

Outward facing commitments that are followed up with measurable actions show consumers and partners that you are walking your talk. They prove your authentic commitment to purpose by mobilizing around a movement around it.

Build community: When your mission resonates with people they will want to participate. Movement making requires community. After you’ve established your mission and made a plan to address it, it’s time to invite others to join you.

Timberland is partnering with organizations like TreeAid, Smallholder Farmers Alliance, and JustDiggIt. These organizations have built expertise and networks around reforestation and expanding green space. By partnering with environmental experts, Timberland is able to scale the impact of its ‘Plant the Change’ campaign.

Essentially, to start a movement you must inspire others to join you in achieving your purpose. Reach out to partners that bring unique skill sets to the table. This will make your campaigns more effective. It will also expand the reach of your communication initiatives and authenticate your work.

Promote products with purpose: A critical step in branded movements is to link your products and your purpose. Brands that promote social or environmental causes, but make products without considering those issues run the risk of coming off as disingenuous.

Timberland drives it home with the #NatureNeedsHeroes collection. The product line features eco-friendly shoes and clothing. for example, products like the Port Union Waterproof Chukka Boots made with recycled plastic bottles.

People want to feel like they are part of the solution. By offering consumers high quality products that embody their beliefs, you invite them to join you in building a better world.

Purpose-fueled movements require big actions and big ideas. No one company can build a movement on its own. Join cultural conversations. Connect with people and organizations that share your values. Make long term impact-driven commitments. Marry product, purpose and profit.

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