When I first started writing in January of 2019 about regenerative agriculture — a form of farming that focuses on soil health — it was hard to find mentions of this term, which was already gaining prominence in the food space, anywhere in fashion publications. But the momentum's been growing steadily since then and the conversation has too, as companies like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher and Kering invest in this form of agriculture that is increasingly being viewed as an essential part of any sustainable supply chain.
On Thursday, outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland made an announcement deepening its own commitment to regenerative ag. It unveiled a partnership with The Savory Institute, a nonprofit focused on holistic land management, to build out a regenerative leather supply chain. This furthers steps first taken by the brand in October, when Timberland announced it would be working with The Other Half Processing to source leather that comes from regeneratively managed ranches.
"The fashion industry has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and we believe it's all of our responsibility to be a part of the solution," wrote Timberland director of sustainability Colleen Vien in a release. "Regenerative agriculture presents a powerful opportunity to go beyond simply minimizing our impact, to actually create value and have a net positive effect for the land and the farmers."
Timberland is relying on Savory's network to help "identify, aggregate, and connect early-adopter regenerative ranches" with its tanneries. Timberland is also helping fund the deployment of Savory's Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) process on ranches that are part of the Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed network, from which the brand sources hides for its shoes and other leather products.
Customers will see concrete proof of all this investment in fall 2020, when Timberland plans to launch a boot collection featuring "leather from verified regenerative ranches" sourced through the Savory Institute. According to Chris Kerston, chief commercial officer for the Land to Market program at the Savory Institute, Timberland's actions in the apparel space are important considering many regenerative farmers and ranchers have been focusing primarily on food products in the past.
"Cultivating a more complete utilization of the materials coming off regenerative farms creates mutually beneficial opportunities for the farmer, for the brand and for the consumer," Kerston said.