Recycling Old Tyres into Shoes is Thin Edge of the Sustainability Wedge for Timberland

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A major green goal for Timberland is to create products that are completely recyclable and biodegradable.

Timberland is already using recycled materials to make its shoes and clothes, like converting used car tyres into shoe soles.

It recently announced a deal with Green Rubber, a company that converts old tyres back into reusable rubber, and two new shoes with soles made from the recycled rubber are set to hit the streets in the autumn.

Jeff Swartz, president and chief executive of Timberland, is a firm believer that big name brands must start engaging consumers on social issues to rebuild trust which has been lost during the on-going financial crisis.

He feels the crisis gives brands with a social message the chance to reconnect with disillusioned consumers.

A good starting point, he believes, is showing environmental awareness and Swartz has ambitious goals to cut the environmental impacts of Timberland shoes, which he notes “are toxic, by definition”.

“We need to make products that endure and last forever,” he said, adding that Timberland’s aim is to “build something that is built so well and styled so powerfully that it will last”.
Creating products that are completely recyclable and biodegradable is a good start and Swartz hints that although Timberland is not there yet, it is getting closer to making products designed so they can be easily taken apart and recycled – enter the recycled tyres.

Swartz says that in a recession brands will be more attuned to the opportunities of good environmental stewardship.


He says that he is pressing design teams to focus on how to cut the amount of material and number of parts used to make a shoe without compromising its performance. This saves money and resources.
He explains: “At heart, responsible business does not mean being more expensive. You are not responsible in order to save cost, but saving cost is a consequence.”

The recession, Swartz says, will not compromise a brand’s sustainability efforts. He says the financial mess is a perfect opportunity for brands to make sure they are giving customers what they really want. That means focusing on good products that are built to last, and rebuilding consumer confidence in brands.


Denna Bowman, Head Office


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