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Jeffrey Swartz

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Jeffrey Swartz photo
Jeffrey Swartz
Chair Emeritus & Charter Trustee, City Year, Inc. President & CEO (Retired), Timberland

For nearly 30 years, Jeff was part of The Timberland Company—the last 15 of those, he was the third generation of his family to lead the company as president and CEO. Jeff's grandfather Nathan started the company in 1953; in 1998, Jeff succeeded his father as CEO. In September 2011, Jeff sold the company to VF Corp for $2.3 billion in cash.

Timberland was a family business, based on principles and values. Nathan built the first guaranteed waterproof leather boot; Sidney built a brand that stood out in 85 countries around the world as a leader in outdoor footwear, apparel and accessories. Jeff struggled to prove that commerce (earning a return for shareholders as a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange) and justice (running a business with respect for the human rights of everyone in the value chain, with a passion for environmental thoughtfulness, with a commitment to volunteer service in the communities you live and work in and with transparent governance)—were not antithetical notions.

Timberland earned its reputation as the #1 outdoor brand on earth by building products to Nathan's standards, and by serving customers and consumers intensely. When Jeff went to work for his father in 1985, annual revenues were less than $100 million, and when he sold the company in 2011, annual revenues were nearly $1.5 billion.

Timberland earned its reputation as one of the most socially responsible for-profit businesses on earth, through more than 20 years of innovative leadership. In 1988, Timberland launched a partnership with City Year, a national youth service organization. Jeff joined City Year’s board in 1989 and was the national chair from 1994 until 2003. City Year and Timberland helped demonstrate that public/private partnerships can be built to last, and that such partnerships between for-profit and not-for-profits can create tremendous and sustainable social value.

Recognizing that there was a passion within Timberland for voluntary service, Jeff initiated The Path of Service™ program in 1992. The program has continued for almost 20 years, challenging all Timberland employees to invest of themselves with 40 hours of paid leave each year for community service during the workweek. Service sabbaticals, which provide up to six months of paid time leave for employees to serve in capacity building roles in social justice organizations is another evolution of the Path of Service™ program. Path of Service helped demonstrate that for-profit business can harness the instinct of its employees to do real good, without compromising the business mission.

Environmentally, Timberland was the first major brand in the U.S. to publicly commit to achieving carbon neutrality, by aggressively reducing carbon emissions related to its business. In 2010, Timberland achieved its goal. In 2007, Timberland became the first company to attach a "nutrition label" to its shoe boxes, making clear to consumers the environmental reality of fashion purchases. By 2012, all Timberland footwear will bear a nutrition label. As a result of such activism, the outdoor industry and the apparel industry have moved far along the path of disclosures to consumers, from codes of conduct in manufacturing, to content labels that tell at least some of the truth. When Timberland published its first corporate social responsibility report in 2001, it was the first in its industry. Today, every brand publishes a report, providing consumers and shareholders with a clearer sense of the brands they do business with.

On Jeff's watch, Timberland appeared on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in America for 10 consecutive years, has been named one of the Best Places to Work by Working Mother magazine, as well as earning a place on their list of Best Green Companies for America’s Children. The company has been listed on Business Ethics list of 100 Best Corporate Citizens, has ranked in Fast Company magazine’s annual Most Innovative Companies issue, named one of Outside magazine’s Best Places to Work, and has received many other awards.

While Jeff ran Timberland, he tried to live the values he preached at work—the belief that one voice can make a difference, and the belief that while no one can finish the task, neither can anyone desist from investing heart and soul and resources to helping with the task. While at Timberland, Jeff served on the boards of City Year, Share Our Strength, and the Harlem Children's Zone—social justice organizations run by world-class social entrepreneurs. While at Timberland, Jeff served in his personal community, as a board member of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, as a partner with the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, and as the Chair of Yeshivat Rambam/Maimonides School in Brookline, where all three of his sons graduated. And he helped found and still chairs MAOZ-SEAL, a leadership program aimed at transforming Israeli civic society.

Jeff received a Master of Business Administration from Dartmouth in 1984, and a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature from Brown in 1982.

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