Over the next five years, Timberland plans to plant 50 million trees. Partnering with nonprofits, the company will begin with projects in Haiti, China, the Dominican Republic, the United States, Tanzania, and Mali, where progress is underway to create the Great Green Wall, a wall of vegetation that stretches across Africa.
“It’s the biggest global campaign we’ve ever had,” says Jim Pisani, Timberland’s global president. It’s only one of several massive efforts at reforestation. In a single day in July, Ethiopia planted 350 million trees—part of the country’s plans to plant 4 billion by the end of the year. New Zealand aims to plant a billion trees by 2028; Ireland aims to plant 440 million by 2040. In Pakistan, after decades of deforestation, the government set a goal in late 2018 to plant 10 billion trees over five years. Other companies have also supported large reforestation projects, including Ecosia, a search engine that has used its profits to plant more than 60 million trees in the last decade. (Others are protecting existing forests, including Apple, which invested in a mangrove forest in Colombia and other forests in the U.S. and China.)
For Timberland, which had already supported similar work in the past, with 10 million trees planted since 2001, doubling down on tree planting makes sense as part of its larger approach to sustainability. “We just know that it’s an effective way to really mitigate climate change,” says Pisani. The company is also working to cut emissions directly as it moves to use more renewable energy and works with suppliers on other potential solutions such as regenerative ranching—raising cattle in a way that can sequester carbon, reducing the carbon footprint of leather. But it recognized that it could go further by also supporting reforestation. In the long term, “our goal is to be net positive,” Pisani says. A recent study calculated that if billions of trees were planted on available land around the world, the trees could help capture two-thirds of the carbon that humans have emitted since the industrial revolution.
The apparel company is partnering with groups like the Smallholder Farmers Alliance and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification on the work. “These are experts in the field of planting trees,” Pisani says. “We wanted to make sure that we did things the right way.” He’s hoping that more companies make similar commitments. “It’s definitely our hope that we’ll inspire others in the industry to take action. Whether they’re planting trees or doing their own thing, we all have a role to play in supporting the environment and lessening our impact.”