Fashion brands including Timberland, Vans and The North Face are partnering with a Thailand-based design consultancy to create the fashion industry’s first regenerative rubber supply system.
The fashion brands under its parent company, VF Corporation have teamed up with Terra Genesis International (TGI) in Thailand to build the world’s first regenerative rubber supply system for footwear.
Rubber is typically grown in a monoculture; it uses a single type of tree, degrades biodiversity and often uses chemicals or may involve exploitative labour practices. Monoculture rubber plantations are also a significant contributor to rainforest deforestation across Southeast Asia.
Based on local indigenous knowledge, regenerative rubber farming incorporates multiple tree species to mimic a natural forest ecosystem. This revitalises biodiversity and enhances ecosystem services such as soil health, water cycling, carbon sequestration and the creation of favourable microclimates. This approach also provides a diversity of yields that farmers can rely on for multiple streams of income, leading to increased resiliency and long-lasting positive impacts for the community.
By supporting “train the trainer” programmes, VF Corporation will help to scale local indigenous knowledge and transition more plantations to regenerative systems.
Luke Smith, CEO of TGI, said: “We are grateful that, through our partnership with Timberland and VF Corporation, we can move this vital regenerative process forward. While the transformation from rubber monocultures to regenerative farming on one farm is impressive, as the shift spreads wider, it is likely to have significant social, ecological and economic impacts in Thailand.”
Timberland plans to pilot its first Regenerative Rubber footwear in 2023. This supply system will eventually be open to brands across and outside the industry, aiming to significantly scale regenerative sourcing of rubber.
Zack Angelini, senior manager of environmental stewardship for Timberland, said: “At Timberland, we strive for a greener and more equitable future, and investing in regenerative agriculture is one of the most powerful levers we have to achieve this vision.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living.