As director of materials development for Timberland, I often find myself in conversations with vendors to review their latest materials in a catalog or as swatches. On my recent trip to Haiti, I had a rare opportunity to step into a field on the outskirts of Gonaives. There, I became a part of the beginning of a supply chain and picked organically grown cotton that will eventually find its way into our products.
I went to Haiti with two colleagues specifically to help with the first commercial cotton harvest in Haiti in 30 years. Once Haiti’s fourth largest agricultural export, cotton disappeared three decades ago due to policies and politics of the times. In 2016, we sponsored a feasibility study that indicated Haiti’s’ climate would accommodate cotton’s return and for the past two years we have invested to bring cotton back to Haiti in partnership with the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA).
FROM DONOR TO CUSTOMER
We first partnered with the SFA in 2010 to fulfil our commitment to plant 5 million trees in five years in Haiti. By 2015, the SFA had not only planted the trees but also created significant positive change in farmer communities. We were thrilled with the outcomes and wanted to transition from being a donor to a customer. As we considered what the farmers could possibly grow for us, cotton seemed like an obvious choice since we use so much of it in our products.
At Timberland, we place a priority on materials that have both a positive environmental and social impact and Haitian-grown cotton will have many powerful, positive impacts. It will also help us achieve our goal to have 100% of the cotton we use be sustainably grown by 2020.