In 2016, companies made enormous strides in materials innovation. From Patagonia's spider silk jacket to Adidas's biodegradable shoes, organizations are continuously pushing the envelope making their products more sustainable. Now, one company is taking that a step further, incorporating more sustainable materials while also creating a positive impact on communities.
Timberland* recently announced a new line of shoes, backpacks, and t-shirts, made from recycled plastic bottles littering the streets and landfills of Haiti. To launch the initiative, Timberland partnered with Thread, a Certified B Corporation with a process for transforming plastic bottles from the streets and canals of Haiti and Honduras into fabric. But the initiative is more than just a sustainability play: the program employs local Haitians who collect the plastic bottles and sell them to 50 Haitian-owned and operated collection centers, who in turn sell the sorted plastic to Haiti Recycling and Environmental Cleaning Solutions S.A. in Port-au-Prince, resulting in the creation of more than 1,300 jobs for locals. The bottles are then melted and shaped into a fiber fabric for Timberland products. However, this is not Timberland's first foray into materials innovation. Since 2009, Timberland has transformed the equivalent of 233 million plastic water bottles into footwear and in 2015, the company used one million pounds of recycled PET in Timberland footwear. This partnership with Thread will help scale the company's sustainability efforts in new markets.
While Timberland could have stopped at simply solving a sustainability issue, it looked at the broader picture when it developed its new partnership with Thread. The companies chose to launch the initiative in Haiti partly because it's the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and one that could benefit from additional job opportunities while also finding an economically stimulating solution to remove trash from the streets that could be replicated in future countries. This partnership represents the evolution of recycled materials from a simple supply chain improvement to a holistic approach to sustainable products, which creates jobs, supports income opportunities, and beautifies neighborhoods in Haiti.
* Cone Client