This week, VF Corporation (the mega holding company for apparel and active lifestyle brands such as Northface, Wrangler, Lee, EastPak) purchased the venerable Timberland brand of sporting footwear for $2 billion.
Of course, Timberland put this positive spin on the news. Timberland Chief Jeff Swartz said in a statement: “Timberland is proud of its rich heritage, its track record of success and its reputation as a responsible and environmentally-conscious global citizen, all of which will be preserved and enhanced by becoming part of the VF family of brands. VF is known for its ability to acquire and grow authentic outdoor brands, while protecting a brand’s unique culture and DNA.”
The jury will be out but many eyes will be watching as the sustainable darling Timberland (ranked number 2 out of 150 companies for sustainability performance by the nonprofit group Climate Counts) will be inspiring to VF. or in the pursuit of stated 10% annual revenue growth – Timberland starts a rocky slide down from sustainability heights of greatness.
According to CSRHUB.com, VF Corporations current performance on sustainability and overall corporate social responsibility measures is hardly a pace-setter.
VF’s overall CSR ranking is 44 – below the averages for other apparel companies, the average U.S. company and all companies ranked. Its performance on the environment was 20% below the average for U.S. companies.
Contrary to VF’s rather uninspiring CSR performance, CSRHUB.com gives Timberland an overall ranking of 63 – and a sterling 65 on environment performance measures (vs. 48 for the average U.S. Company).
Timberland’s track record of integrating socially responsible practices and community outreach into their brand marketing efforts make them a poster child for positive sustainable branding. We worry VF’s leadership won’t cherish the vision and values that has made Timberland special and uniquely sustainable. Stay tuned.