In God we trust, everybody else brings data: Woodland’s Pro-Planet initiative

Finally, I clicked on one of the links on Linkedin coming from an Indian outdoor footwear and apparel brand, Woodland, inviting Linkedin members to view its Pro-Planet program and the company’s regard towards environment and its sustainability initiatives. I did some basic research of their website and hence felt compelled to do this blogpost.

My memory of Woodland shoes go back 10 years when I fancied wearing the brand because of its tough and rugged image…until a few years ago when I came across Timberland, the American outdoor footwear and apparel manufacturer, which changed my thinking. Starting from the name, the logo, the spirit it embodies, and the eco-vocabulary used, Woodland bears a very strong resemblance to Timberland. 

Call it coincidence, call it inspiration or pure imitation – that doesn’t refute the strides Woodland has made in India and abroad. It has built an exclusive network of 350 stores worldwide and presence in more than 3000 multi-brand stores. It certainly has carved out a niche in the Indian market capturing the Indian outdoorsman pretty well. It offers quality within grasp of an average consumer and offers variety and styles, both in the formal and informal category. Nature, environment and wood dictate their well designed stores. Discover, innovate and explore are the ideas that build the company’s foundation. And more recently, its push towards care for environment and sustainability has caught the eco-conscious consumer’s attention.

Zero carbon footprint by  2015

While it is good to see the Pro-Planet initiative of Woodland and the highly informative website with the use of all the right content on it, and its bold goal to reduce its carbon footprint to zero by 2015, what I would really like to see is some metrics and indicators against which the company intends to reach its lofty and worthy goal.

I’d rather see:

  • A balanced score card/Green Index card of some type showing a process of weeding out the toxic materials from their products
  • Environmental reporting by year-on-year basis that gives clear Scope 1,2,3 GHG emissions goals and targets. GRI A+ must be the goal
  • Steps taken/ Apparel Code of conduct to green its supply chain partners
  • %age of alternative energy sources used in their factories
  • Product take back at the End-of-Life
  • Measure of eco-friendly materials actually used

Then there are emissions arising from transportation, packaging, resins/VOC’s, and the health effects to the workers and environmental effects at leather tanneries, employee engagement, recylcing/recyclability etc.

In God we trust, everybody else brings data

Sustainability and caring for environment and the communities where companies operate has longed moved out of realm of CSR and well moved into the board room stratgies as a competitive advantage along with making money…doing the right thing comes as a default. Being the only Indian outdoor brand, Woodland has enjoyed growth unparalled and without much competition. As Indian consumer becomes more aware of sustainable business practices, it becomes a business imperative that Woodland start showing some hard data to back their well-intentioned claims and goals. Someone said: In God we trust, everybody else brings data. Well, what gets measured, improves.

Timberland has already set up shop in India. Tomorrow, we will have Patagonia, Merrell, Columbia, North Face and other big outdoor brands making inroads…and that will not be the time when Woodland starts looking into its factories for data. It needs to do it now to show as evidence of their ProPlanet philosphy. It can’t afford itself to be just seen as green, when in fact they’re green!

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