Here at Timberland it’s not uncommon to see employees living our values. We are Earthkeepers, working together to make it better. That Earthkeeper spirit lives within each of us and motivates us to do what we do every day, whether we’re making a street greener, a city cleaner or a product better. But every now and then we come across an employee who is going above and beyond - not just living our values at work, but making it their personal mission to be an Earthkeeper in everything they do. That’s why today we’re talking to Atlanta McIlwraith, who was recently named one of “46 Sustainability Leaders (who are also women) by Forbes magazine. Atlanta is our Sr. Manager of Community Engagement and Communication in our Corporate Social Responsibility department. Her work with our values partnerships, volunteer programs, and community investments as well as her unwavering commitment to Timberland’s values rightfully earns her a spot on this list and this feature as our first Earthkeeper Spotlight.
What’s your background?
Given my name, it tends to surprise people when I say I was born to English parents. I grew up in England until I was eight, the San Francisco bay area until I was 12, and then we lived in NJ until I was about 18 and my parents moved back to England. A big part of growing up for me, regardless of where we lived, were weekend walks with my family. Walking was a fun way to connect with each other and with nature and I have loved the outdoors since I was a kid.
Making some big moves like that taught me how to adapt to new environments, people and communities. It also inspired me to spend time exploring other parts of the world. All those experiences have helped me be more effective in my work as I work with people from varied backgrounds in different parts of the world.
What drives you to be an Earthkeeper?
As a child, I wanted to bring the disabled veteran home, save the whales and the trees, eat vegetarian, etc. My parents, amazing as they are, didn't openly feel the same way so I'm not entirely sure where this drive came from but it's been in me for a long time.
In college, I learned how to channel my concern into activism. While many of us dabble in activism in school, my college experiences set me on a path. My senior year at Duke, I raised the money and created our first ever "Green Consumer Week" with guest speakers and a guide to conscious consumerism. That was eons ago before "green" was a buzzword like it is now.
After college, I worked as a political and community organizer and later transitioned to the for-profit world. Since businesses hold all the resources in the world, they need to operate responsibly if we are ever going to address our many environmental and societal challenges. I work for Timberland because I respect the integrity of our efforts to “make it better” and I love having the opportunity to support a global brand in being a model of responsible business. We're certainly not perfect, but that pushes us to be more innovative in terms of what we make, how we do business, and how we give back to communities worldwide.
How do you live Timberland’s values?
In my role I get to bring our purpose (to inspire and equip the world to step outside, work together, and make it better) to life through our global community service efforts as well as through our partnerships to reintroduce cotton growing to Haiti, to green underserved urban communities, and many others. It's exciting to collaborate with both internal partners -- including Timberland's Global Stewards who drive service and CSR around the world -- and with external partners to drive positive change in the world.
I share many values with Timberland. To reduce our footprint our house is powered by solar energy, heated by wood from our land, andI drive an electric car. My husband and I also have an organic, cut-your-own Christmas tree farm and we launched a nonprofit that serves as an incubator and launch pad for beginning organic farmers. Together we aim to make sustainable living and sustainable business more accessible to all.
What do you want the outcome of your work to be?
Ultimately, I aim to empower others to make responsible and positive choices for themselves, the environment, and for their communities. Our work to reintroduce cotton farming to Haiti touches on all of this since, through the program, we aim to improve Haiti's environment while also improving the lives of smallholder farmers and their families.
Atlanta’s enthusiasm and commitment to “make it better” throughout her 13 years at Timberland has helped spark projects and movements that impact the lives of people in our communities and around the globe for the better. She embodies what it means to be an Earthkeeper and we couldn’t be more grateful. Want more about Atlanta? Follow her on Twitter @Timberland_ATL.