Timberland marked the planting of two million trees in the Horqin Desert – a significant milestone in its ongoing program to tackle desertification in China’s Inner Mongolia. This achievement is a key part of the company’s CSR efforts in Asia, and demonstrates its continued commitment to protect, create and restore the outdoors and support the communities in which it operates.
By Thomas J. Ryan
In 2001, inspired by Timberland’s commitment to environmental sustainability, one employee suggested that Timberland play a role in reforesting the Horqin Desert, which has caused massive sandstorms that stretch as far as Korea and Japan. As a result, Timberland formed a partnership with Green Network, a Japan-based non-profit. Fourteen years later, Timberland has contributed more than JPY$120 million and 291 days of employee time to support the reforestation project.
“As an outdoor lifestyle brand, protecting and creating a more sustainable environment is not just nice to have – it makes good business sense. That’s why we’re committed to the responsible design and manufacture of all our products, as well as making the places where we live and work more sustainable,” said John Gearing, VP and managing director, Timberland & Sportswear, Asia Pacific. “Today’s achievement of planting two million trees in Horqin signifies our continued commitment to protect the outdoors, not just in the short term, but for future generations.”
Northern China’s Horqin Desert, situated in Inner Mongolia, was grasslands until as recently as the 1960s. A combination of over-grazing and climate change led to deforestation of the area, resulting in the creation of a desert the size of Switzerland (42,300 square kilometers).
This exposed land, combined with prevailing westerly winds, has contributed to sandstorms that affect not only the local environment, but northern China as a whole, as well as other parts of the region including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The frequency and severity of sandstorms has been on the rise as the result of thE desertification – China has already experienced four sandstorms this year, including one of the heaviest sandstorms in over 13 years in April 2015.
As a result of the partnership between Timberland and Green Network, over 700 hectares of trees have been planted – enough to fill 1,200 football fields. The reforestation project, along with similar efforts by the government and private sector, has led to a decrease in the area of desertified land in the Horqin Sandy Land area in recent years.
Reforestation projects such as the one in Horqin have also been shown to help reduce the negative impact of desertification and sandstorms, including improving air quality. The local ecosystem has also been partially restored, helping to protect existing farmlands and the livelihood of the local community – vegetation productivity in the Horqin region has improved by an average of 3.9 percent every year between 2000 and 2010.
Alongside its reforestation efforts to ensure the long-term success of the project, Timberland works with Green Network to educate local communities about how to prevent further desertification. By advising the indigenous population on more effective land use and farming methods, Timberland is working to ensure the project has a sustained positive impact.
“At the highest level, Timberland strives to make it better – for our products, for the outdoors, and for the communities around the globe where we live, work and play” said Colleen Vien, global sustainability director, Timberland. “Today’s tree planting reinforces our commitment to protect and restore the outdoors, and actively engages our employees in making it better for the community here in Horqin and beyond” she added.