Gender equality

Addressing wider abuses against women
Promoting life skills and access to credit for predominantly female workers
Footwear, apparel and accessories
Global (including 290+ suppliers in 35 countries)
No. of employees:


In 2008, footwear accounted for 71.4% of Timberland's sales, whilst apparel and accessories accounted for 26.9%. In the same year, the company had revenues of US$1,364.5 million, with 47.8% generated in North America, 40.5% in Europe and 11.7% in Asia. Timberland operates its own stores and also sells its product in department stores and on-line.

Further information:

Dilemma: Human rights abuses and a lack of life skills amongst female workers in Bangladesh

Timberland has a significant supplier workforce in Bangladesh. For example, one of the company's key suppliers, Young one, has an 85% female workforce. Timberland's international NGO partner, CARE has conducted research in the country, showing that women face violence in the home, harassment, rape, and torture. CARE also found that many women were unaware of their human rights in these and other respects.

Good practice: The provision of life skills training, access to credit and health care

Timberland funds a programme - carried out through CARE and its local NGO partner MAMATA - to raise awareness among women about their rights and to provide social infrastructure among 24,000 employees at YoungOne factories in the Chittagong Export Processing Zone. The programme helps to create a support network of workers, law enforcement officers, and other organisations to protect the rights of workers, 85 percent of whom are migrant women from rural areas in Bangladesh. Timberland has invested more than US$480,000 in the programme over seven years.

Timberland also provides funding for a medical revolving fund to assist low-income workers. CARE replenishes medicines and provides staffing for the clinic.

CARE has also created a micro-finance facility for YoungOne employees, granting access to small loans for education, health care, as well as income generating ventures. The average loan is for US$95, with the interest rate 10% lower than average. The loan programme has a 99% payback rate.

One of the goals of the programme is to become independent of Timberland and CARE, so that MAMATA can run the programme directly.

Results: Improved rights awareness, health treatment and credit access

In 2008, 4,739 workers received training on the following topics:

  • Labour law
  • Health, hygiene, HIV/AIDS and reproductive health
  • Gender rights, abuse and human trafficking
  • Inheritance law

According to a survey conducted by the Workers' Representation and Welfare Committee, after the training sessions, 55 percent of participants “gained a better understanding of overtime calculation, maternal and sick leave, safety, security, basic hygiene, reproductive rights, marriage registration, and joint family decision-making.”

Through access to microcredit, employees and their family members have been able to open small businesses such as barber shops, clothing repair shops, and refreshment stands. Some family members of employees have been able to purchase land to grow food. By the end of 2008, the programme has reached 17,500 people and provided more than US$2.6 million in loans.

The medical clinic has treated approximately 560 patients in 2008, serving both YoungOne workers as well as other community members.

According to a recent report from Timberland, “Timberland and CARE are eager to apply this model of success to facilitate the creation of Sustainable Living Environments in other regions of need.”